The Devil’s Playground

Deep inside a devil’s lair, hidden cameras reveal the never-before-seen life and loves of a Tasmanian she-devil and the struggle to survive in the devil’s playground.

Produced by NHNZ

In a moonlit glade a wombat seems to slumber, twitching peacefully in his dreams. But the nightmare truth is soon unveiled as, with gore encrusted whiskers, a Tasmanian Devil is revealed, chewing his way through the entrails of what is really a corpse.

This is the story of the brutal coming of age of a she-devil in Tasmania’s picturesque Cradle Mountain ⎯ home to peaceable wombats, wily long-nosed potoroos and cautious pademelons, but also the playground of the Tassie devil.

At just over a year old, the small female has begun to attract the attention of males and, driven by this imperative and her own hormones, she takes possession of a wombat’s burrow. As she constructs her nest in total darkness, the banshee screams of the males echo closer and closer as they viciously fight one another for possession of this new female.

As the dominant male corners her in her den, infrared cameras reveal, for the very first time, the violent and gruelling attack that marks the mating of the devil.

At last, after three days of being held a virtual captive in her den, something in the small female devil snaps, and she drives off her vicious suitor in a frenzy of rage. But the male’s biological mission has already been accomplished. Pregnant and in a sufficiently evil mood to ward off other males, the young female has become a she-devil.

As winter settles on Cradle Mountain, the pregnancy is almost over. Entering a seemingly trance-like state, the female gives birth to between thirty and forty young. The size of rice grains, the scarcely developed babies must now struggle through a forest of hair to reach the safety of their mother’s pouch. Only two will survive the perilous journey.

With the fast-developing joeys safe and warm inside the pouch, the she-devil now often leaves the safety of the den, scavenging for scraps amidst the other survivors of the bitter winter.

At around three months the joeys emerge from the pouch, impish balls of mischief with distinctive black and white markings and strong, individual characters. The female is an explorer, while the larger male is content merely to eat. Teething now, they constantly gnaw at each other and their mother.

When left alone in the den, they squabble constantly but in absolute silence, realising that their survival depends on not alerting other predators to their presence. Their mother has taught them well ⎯ usually three out of four joeys do not survive their first year.

By summer the aggressive joeys are a huge burden for their constantly bullied and harassed mother. One night she seems to have had enough and simply leaves them, never to return.

Abandoned, the joeys must learn to forage for food themselves, but danger is all around. Above them a spot tailed quoll, another of Tasmania’s flesh eating marsupials, watches…. and waits.

As summer turns to golden autumn, a young female with distinctive black and white markings stands over the rotting remains of a wallaby, and screams bloodcurdling defiance at a dominant male. Her once innocent face is now a diabolical mask of cruel scars and bone crushing teeth. At this devil’s banquet, the young she-devil has taken her place in the devil’s playground.

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