Wombats on Maria Island so cute that tourists urged to take pledge to keep distance
The locals on Maria Island are quite friendly but people are urged to keep their distance. (ABC Open contributor Lucy Champion)
Tourists visiting Maria Island, the Tasmanian holiday destination and wombat stronghold, are being invited to take a pledge to keep a safe distance from the furry residents.
The wombats there are so numerous they’re almost a “tripping hazard” and are highly sought after for pats and selfies.
East Coast Tourism chief executive Ruth Dowty said visitors don’t mean any harm but had forgotten wombats were wild animals.
She told ABC Radio Hobart while most wombats don’t demonstrate that they are stressed, but wildlife experts said proximity to humans could disturb them.
“The tourists are in love with the wombats; so in love that we need to give them some education about how to interact with them.”
Maria Island is a national park, and as well as wombats, it is home to Cape Barren geese, Forester kangaroos, Bennett’s wallabies and Tasmanian devils.
‘They don’t run away’
The pledge is an initiative of businesses in the Orford and Triabunna area, with the assistance of Parks and Wildlife.
It will be translated into Mandarin and other languages and will be displayed at the Triabunna ferry terminal and on the island.
“I take this pledge to respect and protect the furred and feathered residents of Maria. I will remember you are wild and pledge to keep you this way.
“I promise I will respectfully enjoy the wonders of your beautiful island home, from the wharf, to the Painted Cliffs, to the rocky bluffs, haunted bays and mystery of Maria’s ruins.
“Wombats, when you trundle past me, I pledge I will not chase you with my selfie stick or get too close to your babies. I will not surround you or try and pick you up.
“I will make sure I don’t leave rubbish or food from my morning tea.
“I pledge to let you stay wild.”
Ms Dowty said tourists were greeted by wombats as soon as they disembarked from the ferry at Darlington.
“People are so enthralled with them, and they look so cute and cuddly, but people are getting too close,” she said.
“They pretty much ignore people, but people run up to them and they don’t run away.
“People get very excited about wombats.”
Maria Island’s visitor numbers are growing and has more than doubled in a decade to about 31,000 per year.
In 2017 a larger ferry was introduced to shuttle additional visitors from Triabunna.