Thursday, 26 August 2010

Should the job drive the location?

All packed up and ready to go
A wise person once told me that you choose your dream job first, not the location. In other words, find the job and worry about where it is later. Towards the end of 2004, I did exactly that.  I finished my post-grad studies, found the perfect role, upped sticks, and promptly carted the whole family across Canada to the nation's capital in the east, leaving behind our new-found home and way of life for a 9-5 government job.

Vancouver had given us almost everything we wanted in our search for a better life. We were living a much more 'outdoorsy' kind of lifestyle mixed with the cosmpolitan bustle of a vibrant West Coast city.  We were less stressed, more relaxed, and we quite liked this new lifestyle. Walks with the dogs were a lot more entertaining and with a vastly improved backdrop. My wife's job was varied and easygoing, taking her to a hundred new places with exciting names and interesting attractions. My time at the University of British Columbia had been fun-filled and stimulating, consisting of shared challenges and experiences with many new-found friends. All up, we were pretty happy with our 18 months in Canada...  but something wasn't quite right.  

Saturday, 14 August 2010

An Island Where Fairies and Devils Roam Free

Currently living in Sydney, Australia, I relish any opportunity to explore the Aussie environment. A recent short break touring the island state of Tasmania was the perfect antidote to a damp and gloomy Sydney winter.

With an itinerary that included the majestic Cradle Mountain, rugged Bay of Fires, and pristine Wineglass Bay, Tassie revealed itself to be a place of jaw-dropping beauty. It is an enchanted land riven with lush green forests, expanses of yellow and brown meadows, and wild, craggy mountain tops. Tassie also wears its convict history proudly on its arm, from the impressive architecture of Hobart's Battery Point to the serenity of the Port Arthur heritage site with its deeply troubled past.

My 'better half' with Cradle Mountain in the background

However, it was neither the architecture nor the environment that captured this expat's heart but rather the abundant wildlife that presented itself at every turn we made.

Tasmania is an island where adorable creatures with mystical names run free.  We watched pademelons and wombats graze by our Cradle Mountain Lodge cabin door.  Encountered spotted quolls, wallabies and possums slinking past our St. Helen's beach house just after dusk. And saw wedge-tailed eagles circle in the sky close to Fingal.  It is a place where the Tasmanian Tiger has long gone but where, at Bicheno, we watched rafts of Fairy Penguins still going strong.  It is also a place where the iconic Tassie Devil could soon be gone but we visited the folks at Devils@Cradle hoping to change all that.

The Tasmanian Devil, the world's largest carnivorous marsupial, was previously estimated to number 170,000 but has recently fallen on extremely hard times. The devil facial tumour disease has reduced the population significantly since the late 1990's and now threatens the very survival of the species.  As a result, in May 2009, the Devil was declared to be endangered and could go the same way as the now extinct Tiger, with current numbers estimated at only 20,000. Healthy devils are now found in only a couple of regions on the island and also in conservation facilities such as the one this expat encountered at Devils@Cradle on the edge of the Cradle Mountain National Park World Heritage Area.

A group of devils just before feeding time
Offering a comprehensive conservation program aimed at breeding disease-free animals, Devils@Cradle undertakes field and lab research, orphan hand-rearing and, of course, a full breeding program with the intention of releasing healthy devils into the wild. This expat was lucky enough to visit the Sanctuary on a night-time feed and witness first-hand the work of 'keepers' like Nicole giving their time and dedication to slowing, and hopefully halting, the decline of these fascinating little creatures.

More information on the work of Devils@Cradle can be found at Definitely take a look at the work they do and I'd thoroughly recommend a visit if you find yourself in their neck of the woods. Tassie's disappearing devils need all they help they can get before they become just another past curiosity of this wonderfully diverse island.

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