I woke up early on Thursday to join a tour to the Australia Zoo, long associated with Steve Irwin — better known as the “Crocodile Hunter.” This is a large facility with all the expected Australian animals and birds that also has been developing its collection of animals from Asia and Africa as well. Throughout the day I ran into keepers with animals on display along the walkways, ready to pose for photos and answer questions — very delightful!
At noon there’s a show with a variety of Aussie birds and ending with a 10-foot long crocodile and handlers doing pretty much exactly what they tell folks not to do to be safe around these very dangerous animals. It was impressive to see how these ancient reptiles (around for about 240 million years!) can be so placid and then — BAM! — burst into a startling display of astonishing speed.
Late in the day I took a Segway tour. The guide took three of us on a “back of the house” tour that included some of the areas not usually open to the public, allowing us to see even more animals and to learn about the history and mission of this Zoo.
I am not always a fan of zoos, but this one seems to be getting it as right as can be done. For example, the collection of lemurs are housed on an island. As lemurs are afraid of water, they are secure on the island even while these curious critters scamper quite near the guests. It felt like a good approach for the benefit of both animals and people alike. All-in-all it seems the animals’ health never takes a back seat to human curiosity or comfort.