On my recent trip to Australia, I was able to visit the Australia Zoo. It was a stop that I set as mandatory on my route and I assure you that the visit was worth it! So let's start this (emotional and somewhat personal) post from the beginning. After the days in Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, I arrived in Brisbane on a flight. Although I did not have time to see it very well, Brisbane seemed like a charming city. It was modern, very lively, clean and full of green areas.
Upon our arrival, we stayed overnight in one of the most terrifying hotels (and nothing cheap) in which we have been. It was run by a man with a military face, psychotic look and bipolar personality (I exaggerate a bit). He wakes up us in the mornings with blows on the door of the room so that we would not miss the bus. Finally, once spent the night in this hotel-prison (as we nicknamed it) we went to the airport to rent our stroller. It cost us double than if we had paid the ticket for the bus that went straight to the zoo.
We hit the road and in less than an hour, we had already arrived in Beerwah in our brand new car. My hands trembled at the wheel and I could not believe that I was there. A dream was beginning to be fulfilled, finally! But you will ask why so much emotion for a Zoo?
Who was Steve Irwin?
Without a doubt, I would say that he was one of those people who dedicated his life to a special purpose and leave an indelible memory. He was a great ecologist and at the same time television celebrity, simple, impulsive and of great values. Steve's life was always extreme, as was the opinion of the people. Some of us considered him a hero and others rejected him as eccentric or irresponsible.
When he was a child he moved to Queensland with his parents, where they would run the Queensland Reptile and wildlife park. He grew up surrounded by crocodiles and other reptiles. It is said that he caught his first crocodile at the age of nine with his father Robert and as a child, he was always in contact with nature and wild animals.
Among its star animals was the tortoise Harriet who died at the age of 176 in 2006. It was brought to Australia from the Galapagos Islands by Charles Darwin! In 1991 Steve took over the direction of this zoo that was renamed Australia Zoo. It became the largest zoo in Australia! Although the name "The crocodile hunter" (as it was called the documentary series that he starred in) sounds ugly, the crocodiles that Irwin hunted were always animals in troubled spots. They before ending up as bags or shoes were hunted to then be released in a new home, in nature, where they would not give problems and could live in peace.
Steve had an immense love and passion for the environment and the animals to the well-known cry of Crikey! On the day that Steve died doing what he most wanted, nature undoubtedly lost one of her most passionate and beloved protectors.
He left this world on September 4, 2006, in the morning while filming a documentary under the Queensland Sea. Although the Australian government offered a state funeral, it was rejected by Terry, his wife, for being a simple man. However, he leaves us something very big with his legacy. There are hundreds of collaborations with different countries in the world to save several endangered species. Several initiatives, projects, and foundations bear his name and especially that amazing place like the Australia Zoo!
His effort and work continue today at the hands of his wife, children, and best friends in this fantastic place. Here the animals do not live in tiny cages or seem to be drugged all day. I say this because I am not a fan of the zoo and certainly any animal lover will not be either, but this is a special case. Since I arrived my feeling was not at all of being in a zoo but rather, in a reserve where animals have a huge space and prepared exclusively for them. The small and funny geckos walk around the zoo at will without anyone wondering about it.
The Australia Zoo opens its doors from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and admission for an adult costs around € 40. The zoo is divided into several thematic areas. I could say, it is like the area of Africa with a large Savannah that houses giraffes and rhinos. There is Asia with its star protagonists of the Royal Bengal tigers, which enjoy great protection. They are part of an interesting project to protect the Asian tiger and against animal trafficking in Southeast Asia.
The zoo has free wifi. People are allowed to enter with drinks and food (except alcoholic beverages). There are picnic areas and drinking fountains distributed throughout the site. In any case, there are also food courts. These are expensive where you can order a good burger and some souvenir shops.
The zoo workers walk all day long with different animals with which we take pictures, play with permission. What is better is they always explain the curiosities of that particular species so that we can know, respect and appreciate their qualities.
There is a reserved place in honor of the Harriet turtle. There are the hands and feet of Steve embodied in the cement. There is the statue of the entire family including the dog Sui. There are millions of photos of Steve and his memories.
We were lucky (or not) to go in the period of school holidays. It was a nuisance for the number of children that there was that day. But in turn, it was all a luck since the children of Steve Irwin would make a small appearance in the well-known crocoseum. The crocoseum is known to be the place where Steve made his small shows with the crocodiles. It, in turn, was the place of welcome of the 5000 people who attended a memorial on the day of his funeral.
You can ask me if my tears fell and I would not lie, but minutes before entering the crocoseum (which I certainly expected much bigger) I saw Steve Irwin's wife appear a few steps away from us. What I did not expect was for that woman to stop to listen to our story! She asked us where we came from, thanked us for the visit and admiration for her husband and wished us a good trip.
In the crocoseum we could see a few dances of the daughter (and grown-up) of Steve, with a song that she dedicated to her father. At 12 o'clock the most important show began. In it, they show us above all some animals of the Australian fauna from birds, reptiles, and a dingo. They interact with the public and they show us the capabilities of the biggest crocodile that they have in the zoo. They tell us their story, what it's called and why it got there. At all times they give us the advice to avoid all accidents that occur in Australia due to this animals and explain their customs and way of life.
Being the period of school holidays, the show was led by Steve's wife and two children together with someone whom I was also very excited to see. Wes was Steve's best friend and with whom he shared several episodes of the series that had me crazy as a child "The Crocodile Hunter".
There are several activities at certain times. We went to the ones we could, although there is so much to see that it is impossible to see everything in a single day. In this way, they gather visitors to explain the curiosities of a certain animal. For example the life of the otters, the time of the food of the turtles, the history of the koalas or a special one for children in which their stories are dedicated to learning to love nature. A nice way to educate the visitor and help them become aware.
The koalas and anurans are undoubtedly the kings of any zoo in Australia. I have to admit that before I went I refused to pay money for posing next to a koala. Anyway, the good thing about all this is that the koalas are well cared for and only spend a certain time in the arms of the people, changing every few minutes so they do not get tired.
The koalas are spread over several areas, with their total freedom being the most important. They are not in cages or enclosed in glass. These koalas spend the day in their own tree of eucalyptus in areas well-off for them and with all the pampering of their caretakers! That's life! You have them close enough to enjoy them and at the same time far enough to not cause them any harm.
And now who plays? We were crazy to get to the kangaroo area and when we passed the door of the "Roos Heaven" we freaked out with the first wallaby we saw. Will they be nice? Will there be many? We repeated ourselves again and again. To summarize I will tell you that at least we spent two hours posing with the kangaroos of the lying Kangaroo, sitting kangaroo, watching kangaroo, passing kangaroo. I capture with the mobile to send it home, with the iPad for the blog. What a good time we spent!
We finish this incredible visit in one of the most special, important and well-known places for Australians. It is the Wildlife Warriors Australia Zoo Hospital. This place was the dream of Lyn (Steve Irwin's mother) and Steve made her dream come true in 2004. This animal hospital hosts more than 30 different species, more than 100 daily emergency calls and an average of 70 koalas per month.
The visitable place is tiny but it gives us an idea of what happens there daily. A large glazed area separates visitors from the work area. Intensive care room, laboratory and a small room with several cages full of eucalyptus for the koalas. These are victims almost always of traffic accidents or attacks of animals. We could also see how they were transporting a turtle with a broken carapace or healing a small ferret.
The entrance cost us 2 AUD that we paid along with the main entrance and it really was very worth it. In the room, there is a small screen where Steve's videos or situations in the rescue center go on one after the other. A sculpture of a shark reminds me of the cruelty with which people kill them for their precious fin. There is a box with a very special message that said something like "Do you want to know which is the most dangerous animal in the world?" You only have to open the box to find the answer. Inside the box, we only find a mirror.
There is also a large green area where we assume that they would have the animals in rehabilitation but to which we cannot access. A really wonderful place and we also had the company of one of the zoo workers who delighted us with all the stories he told us about the place, the animals, etc.
We left there with a huge smile. Our car was the last one in the parking lot because we were entertained talking to one of the workers of the rescue center. It seemed a perfect place where everyone was happy and had a common purpose. It was welfare, help, and rescue of the fauna of this wonderful country and the education of all those who, fortunately, visited this zoo. We arrived back to Brisbane very tired but happy with everything we had seen. We could rest peacefully at the motel. It was a better option than the previous one to spend the night in the city. It was clean and with wifi and free parking.
I fulfilled my dream of meeting that man who made me tremble with emotion in his documentaries. I could not do it personally but his image was in every step I took there. It was really exciting and wonderful to see that there are still people like that, who feel love and madness for our Earth and nature. They go out of their way to fight for it. Without a doubt, a great stop along the way that was very much worth it and that will always remain in my memory is the Australia Zoo!
Saturday, March 10, 2012
AUTHOR Kalyan Panja