Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary



It’s been four years since our last visit to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Tasmania, and while there we met these three adorable orphaned baby animals. The Bonorong team rescue, rehabilitate and release hundreds of animals each year and work tirelessly to save our precious natives. I am so excited to announce that we’ve just planned our next project with Bonorong for early 2018 and we have a very special fundraising print in mind. We can’t wait to share it with you!

HUGE thanks to the generous support and sponsorship of World Expeditions and Seagate who are our partners for this venture. So grateful that these precious creatures are as important to them, as they are to us.

We’ll also be stopping in to see our dear friends at Brightside Farm Sanctuary to shoot an epic portrait pic.

Watch this space!



Every week I receive heartfelt emails from people who are seeking more meaning in their lives and who want to find a way to contribute to those in need but don’t know where to start. They ask how to select a group to donate their time and expertise to as a volunteer, or about undertaking a complete career change, keen to know how to begin with a not for profit organisation.

Do you ever have those moments? Where you have wondered if there is a greater way to make a difference? I think it’s such a beautiful thing to be at a point in your life where you’re ready to take steps to follow your inner calling, and I really value being asked these questions and having the chance to direct people onto a valuable new path.

Given the frequency of the emails I receive, I thought I would publicly post the contents of my responses to them, with additional advice from a few of my inspirational friends who continue to change the lives of animals in their relevant area of expertise.
I think the best place to start is to consider what sort of group you’d like to volunteer with, or work for – so deciding what it is you are most passionate about. Where would you like to see change? What fuels you into action? What fires you up? Who or what do you see as the most vulnerable?

It could be linking in to local or international animal rescue; supporting the homeless, domestic violence victims, or unwell children; co-ordinating overseas aid; or assisting environmental conservation efforts.

When you identify the specific area you’d like to help, the next step is to research organisations online to find a group whose ethics and operations resonate with you and align with your values. Check out their mission statements, aims, goals, and financial reports. Link in to their social media pages and read their posts.

If you are passionate about saving the worlds’ bear (for example) and you come across an informative, educational website like that of Free The Bears, you next need to decide if you want to assist at a local level or an international one. Some organisations have Australian offices or Australian based volunteer networks – Free The Bears is based in Perth but also has local chapters in other Australian towns and cities. Their rescue sanctuaries are situated in Cambodia, India, Vietnam and Laos, so there’s lots of scope for you to help from home, or abroad.

Once you have found the organisation that ticks all the boxes for you, check if they have a volunteer program. You can do this by searching online or giving them a call. To apply you may be required to fill in forms, undertake an on-site induction or even have a suitability interview, but these are opportunities to learn even more about the organisation and to increase your involvement.

If you are time poor and committing to regular volunteering isn’t an option, see if your chosen organisation has a wish list of items they need – again, either online or by giving them a call and asking. Animal rescue groups often need blankets, towels, cat and dog food, bedding, flea treatments, collars, vet supplies, etc. You could organise a collection amongst friends or your local community, and make it a regular or annual task.

Or you could donate your skills to help out – be they accounting, business management, catering, delivery driving – or even offer to support them by manning their information stalls at events, or rattling tins on donation drives. The list is endless and there’s always some way you can fit your volunteering in around your day job depending on how much, or how little, time you have available.

To gain employment in a not for profit I would advise taking all of the above steps first. The best way to discover if you want a career in a select area is to volunteer to get a good taste of what’s involved and to learn the ins and outs. Be a team player. Honour your commitment. And work hard for the cause.

Volunteering also builds two extremely important things – experience and relationships. A reliable pattern of volunteering registered to your name will help towards consideration for future job opportunities and networking with those who run not for profits means you’re the first on the ground to hear about pending vacancies. Overall, volunteering is a big foot in the door and will give you the chance to network with likeminded people. Plus the giving back factor will have feel-good reverberations in all aspects of your life.

I asked several incredible people to share the advice they would give to those who want to find and follow their passion. Each is established in their own right as a founder, director or president of an animal rescue or rehabilitation organisation. I’ve had the pleasure of working with them all and am proud to call them my friends Their advice is from the heart and comes from years of experience. Please consider their wise words.

“For me it was reaching a point in my life where the passion I had for my voluntary animal advocacy work, overtook the commitment I had been putting into my career. After working full time and volunteering for the animals part time, I made the switch to volunteer full time and work at my paid job part time. Although personally and financially it’s been very difficult, the sacrifices are outweighed by the fact that due to my decision, every day I get to work on what I am truly passionate about. I don’t ever want to be in a position where I say to myself ‘What if’. So I guess my advice would be, find what you’re passionate about, and let that guide you. During my (at times frightening) transition to full time volunteer I keep this quote on my wall as it depicted the journey I was about to take –

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”
– Guillaume Apollinaire-

Push yourself and follow your passion … or you will never find your wings!”
Debra Tranter, Founder of Oscar’s Law, National

“My advice to anyone is too chase their dreams. You live life once and don’t want to look back and say you never gave yourself a chance. My biggest tip to anyone is to volunteer their time to learn more about their passions and get a head start. When I am looking at potential employees in the animal care industry the first thing I look for on a resume is the volunteering that person has done. In my industry all applicants love animals. Most people do! If I have two applicants and one has 3 university degrees and the other none, yet the one with none has volunteered their time free of charge to care for animals and the other has only done it when they are paid, it makes it a very easy decision to see who will be more dedicated. Make sure you try, try and try again! Your dream job is worth it. Good luck!”
Greg Irons, Director of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Tasmania

“I started out working with animals as a vet nurse and didn’t feel like I was making much of a difference to animals in need. My Family could see I wasn’t happy and so supported me in my decision to do more. Moving to the country and caring for so many animals in our sanctuary has meant sacrifice, a lot of hard work and can be stressful at times but overall I have never been happier and finally feel like I’m where I’m meant to be. The hard slog is worth it.”
Rachael Badger, Founder of Greener Pastures Sanctuary, WA

“They say do what you love and the money will follow – but money is irrelevant if you’re doing what you love. You are emotionally fulfilled instead. Use your skills to make a difference. Your career doesn’t always need to change, just use it to help those who need it most. There’s so much to be done so consider starting now. The more you give the more you get. Making a difference is addictive.”
Karen Rhodes, President of Dogs’ Refuge Home of WA

“Find what stirs your soul. If your passion is strong, your commitment is absolute and the cause is just, take that first step forward. Make contact and see what they need. Who knows where it will lead. We can all make a difference. Especially together. ”
Mary Hutton, founder of Free the Bears Fund, International

Now go out there and find what makes your heart sing! And please SHARE this post to spread the message far and wide and to help others find their way too.

Peace and love,



2014 Australian Geographic ANZANG Nature Photographer of the Year Awards

So proud to hear that Alex has been selected as one of the shortlisted photographers in the 2014 Australian Geographic ANZANG Nature Photographer of the Year Awards in the Animal Portrait section for her pic Max the Baby Wombat.

The competition received 1422 images from photographers in 13 countries, with the quality of entries deemed to be higher than ever before.

Winners will be announced at the exhibition launch at the South Australian Museum on 9th October 2014 and published in the November-December 2014 edition of Australian Geographic.

Congratulations Alex – and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, the wonderful organisation caring for baby Max.




Mother Knows Best : Life lessons from the animal world

This is Lucy the wombat, one of the stars of “Mother Knows Best: Life lessons from the animal world”, by Alex Cearns published by Penguin Books Australia. She lives at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and will soon be released back into the wild to spend the rest of her days in the bush, doing what it is that wombats do. She is on her journey …

Want to see more?

Filled with inspirational quotes and adorable images, and priced at just $19.95 + P/H, “Mother Knows Best” is the perfect heartwarming gift for Mothers Day, a loved one, an animal person … or just because.

“HOW DO I GET ONE?” you ask. From now until 23rd April we are taking pre-orders for MKB via our website – if you place your order during this time, your book will be posted out on 23rd April 2014, the national release date.

Visit place your order – and don’t forget to buy one for yourself too!


Mother Knows Best – Preview

This is Lucy the wombat, one of the stars of “Mother Knows Best: Life lessons from the animal world”, by Alex Cearns published by Penguin Books Australia. She lives at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuaryand will soon be released back into the wild to spend the rest of her days in the bush, doing what it is that wombats do. She is on her journey …

Want to see more?

Filled with inspirational quotes and adorable images, and priced at just $19.95 + P/H, “Mother Knows Best” is the perfect heartwarming gift for Mothers Day, a loved one, an animal person … or just because.

“HOW DO I GET ONE?” you ask. From now until 23rd April we are taking pre-orders for MKB via our website – if you place your order during this time, your book will be posted out on 23rd April 2014, the national release date.

Visit place your order – and don’t forget to buy one for yourself too!


Kindest Heart – Petra Harris, Bonorong Wildlife Park

KINDEST HEART! Who could imagine something so precious as hand raising a baby Tasmanian Devil? The amazing Petra Harris has raised 4 baby devils and is the manager at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. This means she gets to spend each day working at one of Australias best wildlife centres and is heavily involved in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of wildlife. She is also someone we are proud to call our friend and we are thrilled to introduce her as todays KINDEST HEART.

QUESTION: What path led you to running Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Tasmania?

PETRA: I have been an animal fanatic for as long as I can remember and growing up I always had a menagerie of different fur-babies that I’d rescued or brought home from somewhere. In my teenage years I really became passionate about native Tassie fauna and in particular the rehabilitation and release of orphaned and injured wildlife. I started volunteering at the RSPCA animal shelter when I was 15 and shortly after starting there I attended a course on how to look after orphaned marsupial joeys.

After completing this course I became a registered wildlife carer through the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) and my love for protecting and conserving native animals just grew from there. When I finished school I said to my parents that it would be my dream to work at a place like Bonorong and they told me that I should just simply drive out there and have a chat to them, show them my CV and see if they had any job opportunities. So that is exactly what I did! I was very lucky that they liked my prior animal experience and despite there being no jobs going at the time, they gave me a trial day the following week. I completed my trial day and got offered a job.

As you could imagine I was absolutely over the moon and well that was 7 years ago now… how time flies.! Bonorong is certainly my world, my everything and I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.

Q: Who was the first animal you cared for?

PETRA: The first animal I cared for was a beautiful little Tasmanian Pademelon joey named Dolly. Her mother had been hit and killed by a car but luckily she was found uninjured and brought in to care before her health was compromised.

Q: What do you love about Tasmanian Devils??

PETRA: Devils certainly are on my short list of favourite natives. They are such misunderstood animals and I truly love being able to share the close relationships I have formed with my devil girls with people who visit Bonorong.

There are so many amazing facts about Devils that people don’t know, like their incredible sense of smell (over 2km on a still day), their ability to gorge feed (up to 40% of their body weight in one sitting), the fact they only have a gestation of just 18-21 days or why they were named ‘The Devil’ in the first place (due to their vocalisation).

But despite all of the incredible things that make a Devil a Devil I really can’t resist their cheeky little personalities and their big boof heads.

Q: How many Tassie Devils have you raised and what’s involved in their daily routine whilst in care?

PETRA: I have raised four Devils who came in to care when they all weighed under 200g each. They were a litter of four sisters and it is actually quite rare for an entire litter to be the one sex. When the girls first came in to care they were on 4 hourly feeds (yep, day and night) so I was a walking zombie for a couple of months. They were being fed a special milk formula that marsupial joeys can have (not like cows milk which can make them very sick).

When the girls got older their little individual personalities came out and they were hilarious to be around. I was still living with my parents when I was raising the four Devils and they would run amuck around the house stealing things like socks, toilet rolls, and undies and kept disappearing with them.

One day we saw two of the girls run off with a sock and tissue and disappear under the couch. When we looked under there the Devils had ripped a large hole under the couch and were using this as a play den to stash all of these hidden objects. My parents were horrified, haha. The little Devils were so proud of their efforts and this is still a regular story told around the Harris dinner table. Raising Devils is a very special privilege and something I will never forget.

Q: What is Prada the Devil like personality wise?

PETRA: Well if you talk to any of the keepers who work at Bonorong they will tell you they do not have a very high opinion of my Prada, haha. Hand raised devils can often be more aggressive towards people that they do not consider ‘Mum’ and Prada certainly keeps the keepers on their toes. With me though she is a completely different Devil – very loving, cheeky and overall such a gorgeous girl. Her sisters Nimba, Raali and Luna all have different personalities, but Prada was certainly the most robust of the four girls.

Q: What message would you like to share with everyone about animals/ animal rescue?

PETRA: There are so many animal issues in the world desperately in need of community support. We need to change our human practices which impact on native wildlife. Tasmania is an absolute haven for wildlife and is often described as ‘the ark’ for the whole of Australia, as many species found here on our island state are now extinct on mainland Australia. We need to cherish this and help protect the incredible animals we are so lucky to have in our own backyards.

There are three quotes that are close to my heart which might leave people with something to think about.

The first is a quote from Baba Dioum – ‘In the end we will only ever cherish what we love, love what we understand and understand what we are taught’.

The second one was shared to me by my friends at Brightside Farm Sanctuary and is one I say to myself all the time – ‘Saving one animal won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that one animal.’

And the third quote comes from an inspirational man named Philip Wollen from the Kindness Trust who changed my life for the greater good – ‘There are three types of people in this world. People who do not care, people who do care and then people that do care but are willing to change their lifestyles in order to see change.’

Q: And finally, what one thing would people be surprised to know about Devils?

PETRA: Devils they give birth to between 20-40 tiny babies at one time that are literally the size of a single grain of rice. They are completely furless and are born in an embryonic form. The mother Devil only has four teats inside her pouch so the strongest and healthiest four babies that make their way to the teats first will be the ones that survive. What an incredible critter they are.

PICTURED: Petra with her hand raised Devil Prada.

For more information on Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, please visit



Animal Photography Workshop in Tasmania

Meet the lovely like minded people who attended our Animal Photography Workshop on Saturday, held at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. Together they helped raise $1500 for the Tarkine Devil Project, which will be used to research and monitor the devil population of the Tarkine Rainforest – the last known area in Tasmania free of the horrendous devil facial tumor disease.



Tarkine Devil Project Ambassador

DID YOU KNOW? Tasmanian Devils are listed as endangered after being ravaged by the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), an incurable, fatal facial cancer first identified in 1996. Since then, there has been an 84% reduction in devil sightings. I’ve recently photographed many devils and have found them to be fascinating and unique creatures who really captured my heart with their quirky mannerisms and inquisitive natures. So I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been appointed the Tarkine Devil Project Ambassador by Tarkine Trails and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary on an ongoing basis. This means I will continue to raise funds and awareness for the Tarkine Devil Project, an initiative close to my heart as the Tarkine Rainforest is home to one of the last known DFTD free devil populations in Tasmania. For further info on the Tarkine Devil Project please visit




Cute alert!

CUTE ALERT! Does this make you go “Ahhhhhhh”? It’s Max the baby wombat from Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and this is what I call his ‘Hee hee hee’ face. So adorable!



Tiny Tarkine World – The Devil’s In The Details

Late last week Deb and I were privileged to spend 4 days camping, trekking and exploring (and maybe a little wine drinking) in the Tarkine rainforest withTarkine Trails and 8 wonderful like minded friends and two knowledgeable guides.The Tarkine is the last known area within Tasmania free from the devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), an aggressive and indiscriminate facial cancer transmitted from one Tasmanian devil to another through biting. It results in an agonising death and has no known cause or cure.At Houndstooth Studio, we have been working hard for the past 5 months to raise funds and awareness for Tasmanias first 24 hour wildlife hospital, a project run by Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary (which will greatly benefit injured devils) and for the Tarkine Devil Project, a joint initiative between Bonorong, the Tasmanian Government and the University of Tasmania where 40 motion activated camera traps record devil activity in throughout the Tarkine. As the Tarkine Devil Ambassador for our Tarkine trip, it was incredible to see evidence of devil activity in the area, namely in the form of their feces. And how do you know if feces belongs to a devil? If you break it open, there are usually small bones inside. Now that’s a scientific method not to forget, LOL! To know the devils were going about their daily business, unaffected by us and were (as yet) still healthy, was very reassuring and made me feel that there is hope for their future.But instead of photographing creatures (or devil poop) this time, I went for something different. Everything in the Tarkine is BIG – there are trees as tall as sky scrapers and several metres wide in diameter, epic gorges to traverse, and rushing rivers to cross. Rather than photograph the obvious, I wanted to really look hard and discover my photo subject – to ‘earn’ them, if you will. So I sought out the tiny details of the Tarkine, most of which are often overlooked for the larger, more conspicuous plants and geological features.All images were shot using the Tamron Australia 90mm macro lens, and within centimetres of each subject, taken without using a tripod – instead I did held my breath a lot to prevent camera shake!

Hope you enjoy this photo essay of the tiny Tarkine world.

For more info on the Tarkine, particularly the Tarkine Devil Project, please click here — at Tarkine Trails.

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