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Published: July 10th 2011
All three kids really wanted to go to the Australia Zoo that Steve Irwin had catapulted into fame during his abbreviated life. Suzy and I initially resisted. If you go to a zoo, you could pretty much be anywhere and not know the difference. But since we were passing it on the way south into the rainforest, we decided to leave early and get to the zoo when it opened in hopes of not staying too long. We had hopes of getting to our rainforest cabin before dark.
The zoo turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise. It was big enough to have a large diversity of Australia's animals, but not so big that it took half a day just to walk around it. Upon entering, there were zookeepers holding koalas, alligators and birds. They were offering photo opportunities and general Q&A about the animals. Oddly the reptile expert was holding an American Alligator, instead of the Saltwater Crocs which aren't allowed to be handled.
We made it over to the Aldabra Giant Tortoise exhibit for "Tortoise Talk". The Aldabra, we were all surprised to learn, is actually the world's largest tortoise as it grows slightly larger than
An odd bird to say the least!
the Galapagos species. Then, we finally got to see the Cassowary! One of them was feeding out of a bucket. It was taking halves of apples in its beak and tossing them to the back of its throat. The fruit just disappeared without any effort of swallowing. After this, we went to the Crocoseum for the show that made the zoo famous. The show featured some birds and snakes before a monstrous Saltwater Crocodile named Charlie was coerced into he clear pools of the stadium. The Irwin family came out along with Steve's best friend, Wes, who still feeds the crocs. They talked for a while then Bindi (the 12-year old daughter of the Irwins) fed a croc from a platform and then Wes got down to some serious business. He demonstrated what NOT to do around the rivers with saltwater crocs and showed off some of Charlie's amazing strength and speed. It is impressive that they can coerce these animals into doing anything, as they generally don't do much at all in the wild. The trainers use the reptile's natural instincts to get them to thrust out of the water (vertically and on to the shore). The snapping sound
of Charlie's jaws, with up to 5,000 pounds per square inch of force, is astonishing. You wouldn't want this Charlie to bite your finger!
We paid for some photo ops for the kids to hold an Alligator and Python, then Ivy had a very special experience. The zoo has a variety of Animal Encounters that appear to be priced according to level of danger. They actually have a tiger, cheetah and Komodo Dragon experience, which are several hundred dollars each. I'd be curious how these worked. They had a limited number of spots for an upclose experience with the Aldabra Giant Tortoises. When Ivy showed up for this, she was the only person. This gave her 20 minutes with a reptile expert in the tortoise enclosure. She thoroughly enjoyed her time with "Goliath," the older of the two brother tortoises. Goliath is a mere 33 years old, equivalent to a teenage human. He could live up to 200 years. It was great seeing her with her arm around a giant tortoise, scratching its head and taking in all of the information from the reptile expert.
We ended up spending more time at the zoo than we planned, and
didn't make it into the rainforest until after dark. We only have two more days on our trip and then we'll be taking the long airplane ride over the Pacific Ocean to Los Angeles.
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