Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bonorong: A "Sanctuary"?

Bonorong is a "wildlife sanctuary" near Hobart in Tasmania. It was the worst of the five on the island we visited, by far. There were too many kangaroos for too small an area, and the grass was all but non-existent with too much overgrazing. The barren dirt didn't offer much in the way of habitat for the kangaroos. But the most appalling thing was the condition of some of the roos. Their claws were exceedingly long and in need of trimming, both front and back (see photo for example). We did not see any of this at any of the other parks. Whether that's because the habitats are such that the claws can wear down naturally or because the staff actually trims the claws elsewhere, I don't know. But one thing is certain - it's not healthy to have claws that long and it makes the kangaroos unable to use their front paws the way they normally would. They did not appear comfortable, though they did not seem outwardly in pain either.

The enclosures for the other animals were not as bad, and I didn't see any others that didn't appear to be getting basic health care, but overall the park was run down and did not appear that well maintained. The food for the kangaroos was dry pellets and as they ate them from me, they did not exhibit the same spark of enthusiasm or joy I saw in all the kangaroos elsewhere. The overcrowding must affect them on many levels. There were well over forty kangaroos in a small space. In addition, construction on one of the habitats was going on and one of the kangaroos ended up separated and spooked by the heavy equipment, running laps back and forth in fear. The workmen ignored this and didn't stop until they were done. As soon as the equipment shut off she felt safe joining the others; they should have let her do so as soon as they noticed her instead of leaving her frantic for 15 minutes.

I simply left with the impression the best for the animals - including basic health care - is not a priority here so I would not recommend a visit to this particular park. However, I wrote to the management of the park with my concerns and they did respond. They said the grass situation was not over grazing and that the park had been for sale and was not well maintained for a period of time. They say they are re-seeding the grass - they did not say they were reducing kangaroo numbers. They acknowledge the problem of the claws on "some of the older kangaroos" and point out they need a vet to sedate the animals to maintain their claws. They say arrangements have been made to accomplish this nail care in the next few months, as well as other improvements to the park. So, I would be tempted to go again and see if the situation has improved, or interested in hearing from anyone else who visits here as to what they encounter.

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