Anyone who's ever turned on the Animal Planet or Discovery Channel knows about Australia Zoo. Founded by legendary animal lover Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) and his parents (Bob and Lynne Irwin), the zoo has become famous the world over.
I know a lot of you have issues with zoos. "I don't want to see animals in cages", etc. Let me tell you this, there is no better place on earth to live for an animal than Australia Zoo. HUGE native enclosures, healthcare and love that surpasses most national human programs and a dedicated staff who truly LOVE what they're doing.
They're doing great work in Beerwah at Aussie Zoo, truly putting their money and fame where their hearts are.
Besides the directions listed below, you can also get to Australia Zoo by
(TRAIN) Catch the "CrocTrain" from Brisbane Central Station to Beerwah, and a courtesy coach will pick you up in Beerwah and run you out to Australia Zoo.
(COACH) from either the Gold Coast or Brisbane, contact Australia Day tours (1 300 363 436) or CC's Croc Connections (1 300 551 249)
You can also get free courtesy coach pickup from Noosa Heads, Maroochhydore, Alex Headlands, Mooloolaba and Caloundra. Advance booking is essential, call (07) 5436 2000. (The zoo phone number)
Everybody loves the koalas, the literal symbol (along with the kangaroo) of the land downunder. Basically, these little guys just remain in a semi-buzzed state most of their lives, nibbling on eucalyptus leaves. In some ways, they're a little bit like members of the Grateful Dead, I'd guess...just enjoying life and hanging on.
One little warning, these guys are uninhibited...it could be the eucalyptus. When we posed for photos with one of them, he became "turned on" by my wife Bonnie, resulting in a somewhat brazen display of physical transformation. :) I thought I was gonna have to go a round or two with the koala over my wife. Heh heh.
And another song we all sang as schoolkids...
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, eating all the gumdrops he can see,
Laugh, Kookaburra, Laugh Kookaburra, some some gum for me.
Well, we didn't see them eating any gumdrops, but their call sure does sound like a wacky laugh. If you didn't know better and heard it, you might look to make sure you hadn't ripped your pants or something.
Kookaburra are, much like vultures, scavengers. They are natures laughing garbage collectors, keeping dead critters cleared from the highways and byways of down under.
The folks who work at Australia Zoo share Steve and Terri Irwin's love of animals, and it shows in everything they do. And, they about THE most hospitable and accomodating folks we've ever come across at a major "attraction". They were especially happy that Sara has such an undying devotion to animals, and their rescue and rehab. The zoo staff went out of their way to insure that Sara's visit to Beerwah was everything she'd imagined and more.
You'll not find any surly or crabby folks working Aussie Zoo. And, you'll also find so many people who've been there for quite a while. I get the feeling that the Irwin family are excellent employers, the kind of people you want to work for.
As mentioned earlier in the Beerwah page, the Aussie Zoo staff is terrific. And if you've read my "echidna" tip, you'll also know that my daughter Sara kind of developed a crush on Greg, the echidna's handler.
As for us finding Sara a boyfriend at Aussie Zoo, the chances are best that she loved the animals more than Greg... but yet she did have quite a smile on her face as she cuddled up to him for the photo.
And on the other side of the snake size spectrum, we have the Burmese Python. Native to SE Asia, these monsters are not poisonous, but are far from truly harmless. Possessing huge and sharp fans, a bit from a python is not to be taken lightly. And, they're capable of crushing and swallowing an entire goat... or perhaps a small child?
NO, Sara... we can't take it home.
It's hard to imagine a porcupine family reunion...sounds a bit prickly if you ask me. But if such a shindig were to occur, the Australian representatives would include the echidna. In the attached photos, Sara is holding (with the help of Aussie zoo staffer Greg) an echidna. This was one of the special encouters that the zoo allowed Sara to have...the general public only gets such opportunities via advance reservation.
The echidna is basically a gentle vegetarian creature. Normally, its quills or somewhat sheathed closed to its body, meaning that gently touching and carrying the echidna is no problem. However if startled, it will display a fan of extremely sharp spiked quills to discourage any agressor.
Be quiet and gentle, Sara.
And yes... Sara did develop a bit of a crush on Greg, the zoo guy. See attached photo.
What a cute critter...my wife and daughter loved this wombat. Aptly named "minibus" for her less than girlish figure, this little round marsupial is quite a handful, weight-wise. Don't be fooled by Minibus' apparently lack of agression, the wombat CAN be a cranky animal.
They are vegetarian, as are their marsupial brothers and sisters, the kangaroo. Judging from the size of Minibus, I'd guess it'd take a LARGE salad or two to fill her up.
My daughter LOVES exotic birds. We did, after all, essentially visit Tambopata in Peru to enjoy the clay lick gathering of the parrots and macaws. Sara would like nothing more than to have a bird. Seeing as how we own two cats, I think this is a bad idea. I know, I know, large birds such as cockatoos and macaws can hold their own against cats, it's just that I don't want to be hauling our silly kitties to and from the vet when THEY forget. One other thing, regarding exotic birds as pets, the last thing I need around the house is a pet that will outlive me. :)
Australia is an amazing place for exotic birds. In the photo below, zookeeper Megan is showing us one of the zoo's cockatoos, a beautiful white tropical. What was wild to me was that we'd actually seen a flock of these birds wild and in the trees outside our hotel in Sydney. It's so different than back home.
One other thing... everyone always knew about the late Steve Irwin's legendary kismet and way with animals. That did NOT extend to birds. Steve used to always get crossways with the feathered friends at the zoo. He was quoted many times as saying he'd rather deal with a croc in the wild than a cockatoo or parrot.
One of the more recent additions to the zoo is the Crocoseum, an outdoor arena seating some 8000 or so visitors. This is the place that many of the zoo's scheduled programs and demonstrations occur. You'll see crocodile feedings, wild bird shows and (Bonnie's favorite), the zoo's tigers. The Crocoseum was built with a generous donation from the Panasonic corporation. Panasonic has also contributed additional funds that are being used to purchase Australian wildlands, thereby saving them from future development. This is a huge part of what Steve and Terri Irwin do with the money generated by their zoo and TV empire.
They're informative, entertaining for all ages, and free to all zoo visitors. There are several shows each day, check the schedule and visit your favorites.
One thing that we received as part of our "behind the scenes", "VIP" visit was the chance to visit the crocodile holding ponds out back. It's really incredible how much thought was put into making sure that the Crocodiles remain healthy and happy in Beerway. Steve designed an incredible series of "canals" and gates that allow the introduction and removal of various crocodiles from the show in a safe manner.
All over the zoo, members of the staff are circulating with animals, offering the public and hands-on encounter. This little guy is a corn snake, which my daughter tells me is totally harmless...other than making dad and mom's skin crawl. The corn snake is good for controlling the rodent population, living in field, barns, old buildings and such. These snakes are also called "red rat snakes", and they are native to the USA.
In the photos below, Sara is greeting her reptilian countrysnake.
We live in Florida, and are more than familiar with the American alligator. Cousin to the freshwater crocs of down-under, we found friendly Florida reptilian faces on our visit to Australia Zoo. Unfortunately, we had to give the ex-patriot Americans the bad news that their habitat stateside continues to shrink.
And, I'm just kidding when I joke about making the little alligator in the photo below into a pair of shoes. :)
One of the special, "behind the scenes" encounters that Australia Zoo kindly comped for my daughter was the opportunity to feed the elephants. Bonnie, Sara and I, along with my VT buddy Kevin (k.knight) had a blast feeding apples to these gentle and impressive pachyderms.
I did get the feeling that they could've eaten apples all afternoon, but I guess that's no surprise. It would take more than a bag full of Michigan beauties to fill these creatures up. And Kevin, I promise that what that elephant tried to do with his trunk to us is our secret. He probably misunderstood us when we said "do you want some peanuts"?
I've heard so many scary things about dingoes, I was surprised to see how beautiful and truly docile the ones at Australia Zoo were. Much like a beautiful dog, these dingoes were squired throughout the zoo visitors by staffers. My daughter loved getting her face licked by these beautiful canines from downunder.
BTW, if you are a fan of Seinfeld, as are we, I'd suggest NOT cranking out Elaine's famous line, "Did the dingo eat YOUR baby?" The zookeepers have heard it about a zillion times and are unamused. The only frowns we saw from anyone associated with the zoo was when we made reference to the dingo eating your baby line.
When one thinks of Australian animals, the "K"s have it.... koalas and kangaroos.
Australia Zoo has a huge enclosure through which the general public can walk and intermingle with kangaroos. Basically, you'll be able to pet them a bit, as they're quite tame. You're not supposed to bother the joeys (the baby kangaroos). This is to avoid upsetting the mom.
The day that we spent time in the kangaroo habitat was a lazy afternoon, and most of the locals were taking it pretty easy.
Kangaroos in the wild CAN be dangerous, and can give you a nasty kick, as could these more human-tolerating zoo critters if they were annoyed. Sometimes it's hard to know that, because they're so gentle and easy-going. If you bring kids on your trip, they'll love the kangaroo enclosure.