I'm not normally a zoo person. My memories of visiting the zoo as a kid are of too much sun, not enough water, and too much fighting with my sisters over what to see next. The real clincher for me though, was going to a zoo overseas for the first time, and seeing Canadian wildlife in the zoo. It was heartbreaking to see them out of their natural environment. I don't think they were being mistreated, but they just didn't look right to me. The timberwolf's fur was discoloured and the moose just looked sad. Within just a few months of that experience, I got to see dolphins in the wild for the first time. It cemented my belief that animals should be seen in their natural environments.
That being said, there are some zoos around the world that do some amazing conservation work and I can't fault them for that. One of these zoos is the Australia Zoo
, owned by the Irwin family. I can't really explain why, but it was on my "must-see" list when I got to Brisbane. The drive from Brisbane to the zoo is just over an hour, depending on traffic.
At the entrance, we
Is there any other time for koalas?
asked if the Irwin family would be around, since it was school holidays and a new exhibit had just opened. The staff member said she thought so, and if they were, they'd be at the crocodile show coming up soon.
We arrived at the perfect time to make our way over to the Crocoseum and find seats. The show started with beautifully coloured birds flying in and around the Crocoseum, then some elephants and snakes, and finally the stars of the show (I'm not sure who's a bigger draw--the Irwin family or the crocs).
I remember where I was when I found out Steve Irwin had been killed by a sting ray. I was having dinner in Nadi, Fiji, with friends before my overnight flight back to North America. We'd been on one of the Yasawa Islands for the last several days, and we'd been snorkelling with manta rays on the same day Irwin had the lethal encounter with the sting ray. I find the Irwin family fascinating. As I watched the show, I couldn't help but wonder if the Irwin kids really want to be in the limelight this much, or if it is a duty to
them. I don't doubt that six years ago, Bindi Irwin really did want to carry on her dad's legacy, but she's a teenager now and I wonder if she still feels the same.
After the croc show (where I did learn that crocs are ridiculously smart and humans really don't stand a chance against them) we went to the new Africa exhibit. Only phase 1 is open right now, but it's impressive. The giraffes, rhinos, and zebras are all in the same large enclosure, which is a much more natural way to see the animals. We were disappointed that the cheetah isn't out yet-it will have it's own "run" adjacent to (but separate from) the other animals.
One of the best things about the Australia Zoo is their focus on Australian animals. You can get up close and personal with the kangaroos and koalas, which is especially awesome for little ones, like my friend's son. His favourite part was definitely feeding the kangaroos, although he did enjoy petting the koala too.
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