Devil's advocate: Archie the Cavoodle 'smitten' by his unlikely new best friend

A seven-month old Tasmanian devil named Hurricane has made an unlikely friend while being hand-raised by zookeeper Elyshia Wignell.

It was September when the joey met another litter mate of a different species.

Archie the Cavoodle is Miss Wignell's pet dog and joins her at work each day at Zoodoo Zoo.

She said at first Archie was only allowed to see and sniff baby Hurricane but the loving relationship could not be avoided.

"From the moment Archie saw Hurricane he was smitten, he followed me around whenever I was carrying him just to see what I was doing and to make sure he was safe, sat still and watched quietly the entire time he was being fed which was over 30 minutes each feed and even cried and became distressed whenever Hurricane cried," Miss Wignell said.

"For the first few weeks, Hurricane and Archie only interacted and played while Hurricane was being held or on my lap. They would both happily snuggle up next to one another on my lap while sitting on the couch and were extremely comfortable in each other's company."

Hurricane was one of four joeys born to first-time mum Luna, but the effort to raise the devil and his three sisters was taking a major toll on her body.

"Usually first time mothers will have only one or two young, and two to three young is the average for Tasmanian devil mothers in subsequent breeding seasons," Miss Wignell said.

"Therefore, the fact that she had four joeys was quite a surprise, and fairly rare.

"As they started to grow bigger her behaviour started to change and exhaustion started to take over, she became extremely lethargic and lost her appetite completely."

The decision was made to remove two joeys for hand-raising by members of the Devils in Danger Foundation.

"The success of this decision was almost immediate, the very next day she was up and running around again, back to her feisty old self and her appetite had well and truly returned," Miss Wignell said.

"We strongly believe that hand-raising Hurricane and Blizzard, Hurricane's sister who is being raised by another DIDF member, has significantly increased the chances that all four of her joeys will now survive into adulthood and Luna will remain healthy enough to breed again in the future."

Slowly, over the past two months Hurricane has become more confident and adventurous and began to play with the dog on the floor.

"He has been playfully asserting his dominance over Archie by chasing him around, gently biting his legs or pulling on his ears and even stealing toys right from under Archie's nose - exactly the sort of behaviours he would display with his siblings in the wild," Miss Wignell said.

"Archie has always been extremely gentle and loving with Hurricane and to this day is often extremely happy just to sit by and watch as Hurricane plays around him.

"However, when they do play together one of their favourite things to do, is play games of tug-of-war."

Miss Wignell said Archie had not only become a companion for Hurricane but an important source of enrichment.

"Archie was raised with, and conditioned to comfortably be around, a variety of different animals with the thought that one day he might become a companion for any animals that my job may require me to hand-raise in the future," she said.

The baby devil is slowly being weaned off his milk and introduced to meat.

He is likely to stay with his adopted family for a few more months until he is big enough to survive with his sister Blizzard in their own enclosure.

Hurricane will join the foundation's breeding program when he is old enough, helping to breed healthy, disease free devils in captivity.

The foundation aims to guard against the extinction of the devils by building breeding enclosures, increasing insurance populations of healthy devils in captivity, educating the public, spreading awareness about the plight faced by the devils and funding vital field research.

It relies on public donations to continue its work.

The Examiner

This story Devil's advocate: Archie the Cavoodle 'smitten' by his unlikely new best friend first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.