Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Australia Zoo

Brian has been crazy busy since the beginning of the year.  He has had two projects due at the same time - which are both thankfully done as of last week - and several big things pop up that needed to be tended.  As a result, he's been travelling a fair amount, and when he's not travelling he has been working late and/or working at home in the evenings.  Last trip he came home from I hit him up early in the morning with about five different things because it felt like we hadn't talked in forever.  Luckily that doesn't happen often and we decided to do something about the lack of family time we had been having.  Knowing that he had to head back up to Brisbane for work last Monday through Thursday, we decided to surprise the boys by flying up to meet him in Brisbane.  The next question was what to do, which I thought was easily answered - the Australia Zoo.

I have had several Aussies ask me what Americans know about Australia.  I usually answer with things like "g'day mate," the Great Barrier Reef, the Opera House, and Steve Irwin yelling crikey as he wrestles a crocodile.  What many of us don't know is that the Irwin family has owned and operated a zoo since the mid-70's.  What started out as a a reptile farm has been turned into a lovely zoo.

They are holding up Tasmania and the rest of Australia

One of the fun things about the zoo are the encounters you can have with an animal, ranging anywhere from an echidna (kind of like a hedgehog.  Fun fact - they are one of two monotremes, meaning a mammal that lays and egg but carries her babies in a pouch.  The babies are called puggles) all the way to a tiger.  As much as I would've loved the tiger encounter, I just didn't feel like paying the money for it!  So, we booked Nathan in for the Dingo by Jingo encounter and Wills and I chose the Naughty Wombat encounter.  I tried to talk Bri into something, but he chose to just watch Nath with the dingoes.  So, we planned the main part of our day around those two encounters, which unfortunately overlapped.

Upon entry, we were greeted with a zoo worker holding an alligator.  She asked the boys if they would like to help hold it, which they were quite keen to do.  A photographer was there to snap the moment and at the end of the day you can collect any proofs and have them printed out for a small fee.  That said, they were happy for you to take any of the proofs and to use your own camera as well.  We had fun watching the boys interact with the animals.

Love the look on Will's face

Thumbs up for the Cockatoo.  Unless they start squawking at
inappropriate times, like early morning.  Then two thumbs way down!

Both of these were before we had even gotten to the main path.  We headed off to find the Tasmanian Devils, because the kids were looking forward to seeing those.  On the way there we ran into these two oldies:

I wish this picture conveyed how massive they are in life.  We watched the tortoises munching on grass for a bit - it was quite fun.  Then we were off again to find the Devils - until we were distracted by the massive crocodile on which to play - and who could blame the boys?

Will does actually like AC/DC - especially after he
discovered they were Aussies.

After playing on the croc for a few, we were off again for the elusive Devils - until once again we were distracted, this time by a Cassowary.  The boys were so excited.  They've been wanting to see one for awhile, especially in the wild.  Seeing as they are the most deadly bird (big surprise that it's in Oz!) I'm quite happy to visit it at the zoo!

It's actually about the size of an ostrich

I always think they look prehistoric, with that plate on top of their head.  They are able to gut you with their sharp claw, so it's suggested you cover your midsection and face if one charges you.  They are fast, so you can't outrun them.  Like I said, happy to see it behind a fence!

We finally made it to the Tasmanian Devils - and they were active!  I've seen them one other time and they weren't doing much.  This one was running around quite a bit, so we watched it for awhile.

It made it's devil noises while we were watching

I'll try not to bore you to much with every single other animal and just hit a few of the highlights.  As we walked by, one of the elephants had attachments on it's front legs.  At first we thought it was a "saddle" for people to ride it, but on closer inspection it looked more like a camera on it's back.  We watched for awhile and when a bit bigger of a crowd came around, the trainer explained that the elephant had arthritis in it's ankles and was receiving a massage.  It didn't like it very much, as it hadn't been used on it's front legs much.  After a few minutes, they switched the attachments to it's hind legs, which seemed to be well received.

Maybe I should get one for my ankle?

I love tigers - and I may have started to sing the Bengals fight song at this point -

Hear that Bengal growlin', mean and ang-er-ee

Just taking the cheetah for it's walk

Obligatory koala picture

Cute wombat

And with that I'm going to delve into our animal encounters.  Will and I put on our joggers and headed with a zoo keeper to the wombat enclosure.   I always thought they looked very cuddly - they kind of waddle around, looking a bit chunky.  Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong.  There is no fat on them, only solid muscle.  And they have this bony plate from the top of their haunches on down.  They truly do lumber along - unless they are being threatened.  Then they can run up to 40 kph and stop on a dime, so that the predator runs headfirst into that bony plate, either breaking it's facial bones or concussing itself.  Then the wombat is free to waddle away.  It can also thin itself out to 10 cms, mostly in it's burrow.  If a predator digs in there, the wombat thrusts itself up to smash the skull of the predator.  Don't mess with a wombat!  Wills and I loved the time we spent petting them.  Sorry about the quality of picture - it's a picture of a picture.  Brian had the camera taking pictures of Nath with the dingoes.

Sorry, it's a picture of a picture

Nathan had a great time with the dingoes.  By this point in the afternoon, they had to hold this encounter inside, as it had been raining on and off for most of the day.  Two dingoes were brought over  for Nathan and two others to meet.  Brian was allowed inside with Nathan as well.  Nathan loved them - and they loved on Nathan.  He received kisses and was able to get several good cuddles from them.  He said they were friendly and that he would love to meet them in the wild.  We are trying to convince him that is a bad plan.  As very few others were around, Nathan was able to spend almost an hour with the dingoes.  It made for one happy kid!

Very happy kiddo!

His official photo

We also were able to watch one of the main shows that stars Bindi, Steve Irwin's daughter.  She did a great job, but I wonder how difficult it must be to be reminded of your father so often.  I know that the whole family is passionate about conservation and she's a performer, but still.  It was a lovely show - crocodiles leaping at food, snakes slithering around, and birds taking five dollar notes off of people.  The boys were fascinated.

Another side note - I've heard several people refer to Bindi as Prickle.  Bindi is a common weed in the yard that has prickles on it.  Not very nice, as we've all had to pull many of them out of our feet.  I once asked someone why she would've been named after a weed.  Apparently she's named after one of the family dogs.  Not sure that's much better!

My final thoughts on the zoo are that it is incredibly well done.  There aren't as many animals as some of the zoos you visit, however that have done a top notch job with their enclosures.  They are significantly bigger than any I have seen at other zoos and were immaculate to boot.  I couldn't believe how clean the glass was on all of the exhibits!  It's also the most consistently active I have seen animals at a zoo - maybe it has to do with their living quarters?  I would recommend visiting the Australia Zoo - the hands on aspect was wonderful and I'm certain they are memories we will have for the rest of our lives!