Crikey mate, what a ripper of a day!
Trip Start Oct 17, 2007
44Trip End Oct 16, 2008
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Located an hour or so North of Brisbane, on the appropriately named Steve Irwin Way, is the world famous Australia Zoo. If you didn`t know better, walking around the zoo you'd think Steve himself was still around as there are pictures and posters about and the big screen in the awesome Crocoseum playing re-runs of Crocodile Hunter shows.
Australia Zoo, unlike many others, is more about animal welfare and conservation than purely putting animals on show, so you won't find loads of different species doing bored laps of too small enclosures, but instead a selection of the world's most endangered species with acres of space to run, roam, plod or slither to their hearts content.
It's a pretty hands on kind of place, or rather a hand out with a piece of fruit in it to feed a gorgeous Asian elephant kind of place, and this is one of the first things we did on entering the zoo
Slightly smaller but giants of their kind the Aldabran tortoises nearby were also enjoying the most enormous salad in their large enclosure. As big as these guys are at the youthful age of 60 they can live to be 150 and grow to twice this size. Crikey!!
Across the zoo in the Crocoseum, with not a lettuce leaf in sight, Graham the saltwater crocodile was also getting a feed as well as putting on a show for the 3000 or so spectators in the purpose built arena. Terri Irwin and Wes Mannion put Graham through his paces and he was more than happy to demonstrate his awesome ability to strike from the water, his 3000psi jaw pressure (yes 3000) and even threw in a couple of death rolls for good measure
Before the croc show (and with it being school holidays) Bindi Irwin and her "Crocmen" put on a song and dance show with a strong conservation theme and had all the kids (young and old) dancing in the aisles and singing along. It was quite entertaining. Even Terri and Bindi's brother Robert joined in with the crowd. For someone so young she's certainly not afraid of the spotlight and it is clear to see she thoroughly enjoys performing and passing on Steve's message. Beaut!!
Back on the wildlife trail we also saw a couple of cassowaries (one of the world's most dangerous birds), a komodo dragon (an enormous and very dangerous lizard), koalas (cute and cuddly), kangaroos (red and grey), American alligators (bit snappy), salt and fresh water crocodiles (kept smiling at us), various snakes (sssimply ssssuper) and some wonderful wombats (mostly sleeping) to name but a few. Strewth!!
One of the most magnificent and majestic creatures we saw was Ranu the Sumatran tiger who was more than happy lazing in the sunshine until the three lively, mischievious cubs were let out to play! Ranu lasted about two minutes before he made for the door to show the handlers that he was ready to leave
However, all of that pales into insignificance when you see what we did at the start of the day, before the zoo was even open. Having been avid viewers of "Big Cat Diaries" we both have a soft spot for the world's fastest land mammal - the cheetah. To make our day at the zoo one we would never forget we decided to take the once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with a mature male by the name of Foxtrot, or Foxy to his friends. Foxy, his handlers and a zoo photographer took a walk around the (empty) elephant enclosure with us and whenever he decided to stop and rest we were able to slowly and calmly move in close enough to stroke his back and even run our hands along his flattened, rudder-like tail.
The photographer caught some beautiful shots and it really wasn't difficult to smile on cue - they were plastered on all day! Foxy must have been enjoying it too because he was purring loudly and we could feel the vibrations through his body. Before we knew it our time was up and we had to let Foxy return to his three companions in the off display enclosure
It was the most awe inspiring experience and it felt like such a priviledge to be in the company of this truly magnificent cat. It's good to know too that most of the money we paid goes to cheetah conservation projects in Africa so that there is hope that generations to come will be able to appreciate these beautiful but highly threatened creatures. Cheetahs Rule!!
Our visit to Australia Zoo was a fantastic day out and we can only wonder at how much more magical it would have been had Steve Irwin still been there to spread his understanding, enthusiasm and love for all things dangerous and endangered. As it is his message of conservation and the importance of protecting every animal from the tiniest ant to the biggest whale lives on through his family and the work of the staff at the zoo. Steve Irwin R.I.P.