Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's All Happening At The Zoo

March 19, 2013

We spent much of today at the Adelaide Zoo - it was so much fun!

We walked from our motel/backpackers (hostel), about a three mile walk.  Arrived and found that the trees across the major road from the zoo were full of cockatoos, gorgeous white screaming and screeching cockatoos!   

In the zoo, there were the cockatoos' cousins, all kinds of gorgeous parrots and lorikeets and rosellas - an amazing number of beautiful multi-colored birds of the parrot family, most of whom are native to somewhere in Australia.  Including an incredibly blue and gold macaw from Central America, who has been trained to fly from perch to perch, and he put on quite a show mid-day, flying back and forth for the crowd that gathered on the lawn.  (I was nearly side-swiped by the macaw!)

I think the cockatoos were hanging around outside, jealous of all the care and attention their cousins inside the zoo were getting.  Either that, or they were all saying "Nyah nyah nyah, we're free and get to fly all over the place, so there!"

We also saw an echidna, which is the Australian porcupine kind of animal - except his face looks more like a hedgehog.  But they're about the size of porcupines - pretty big.  He was pacing back and forth and checking out some logs, hoping for bugs for lunch.  He was in one of those enclosures that zoo-goers can walk through, with double doors to ensure the animals can't escape - but he looked like he was trying to make a break for it by jumping over the little curb and rushing the door as people came and went.  At least, he peered over the curb as if he was measuring the distance to see if he could make it.

There were these strange crested doves or pigeons wandering around the cafĂ© area - this one jumped on the table to eat a few crumbs when Richard went back for more water.  Pushy as all pigeons are, but looking cool with the pteradactyl thing on his head.

People could pay for special "animal encounters" - unfortunately, holding the koala wasn't one of those encounters.  The nice man at the ticket counter told us that their koalas aren't very friendly, and so they don't let the public hold them.  But there's a nearby animal sanctuary, and they've worked with the koalas so they're more tame, and are okay with being held by the general public.

There are other options, like feeding the giraffes - leaves and stuff - while a professional photographer took their photos.  Although the giraffes were funny, they stopped eating the leaves at a certain point and walked away - the zookeeper said that's their signal that they don't want any more leaves, they want their carrots.  So in this photo, the fussy and spoiled giraffes are eating cut up carrots out of a tall trough.

A few people paid to go in the back cage with the zookeeper and feed the lions, and then take photos from inside the inner cage - first they fed the female lions, who roared and roared, so loud it shook the reptile house where I was hanging out.  Then he fed the male lion, huge with a dark mane - the male managed to get seconds on the meat, I guess he's a big eater.  

And the penguins - our friends the little blue penguins.  Just so cute, and noisy, and with so much personality.  They really are like little people in suits, each one with their own disposition, and personality.  One little guy is shy about taking fish from the feeder, and doesn't like to swim with his head in the water - the vet has checked him out, and physically he's fine.  He's just a little shy and doesn't have much confidence - the zookeepers think he'll eventually figure out how to swim with his face in the water and dive and catch his own fish, but he just seems to need a little more time than the other penguins.

So of course I took lots of photos of my little buddies the blue penguins - and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on each one, to see how cute and funny and quirky these little guys really are.  Plus how they really are kind of blue!

There was also a petting zoo, with goats and sheep and deer, bunnies, guinea pigs, and even highland cattle - cows from the Scottish highlands, so they have long hairy fur in kind of a reddish brown, that hangs over their eyes and makes them look much cuter than normal cows.

The children's zoo area also had wonderful mosaics - apparently different schools created different designs.  I'm not sure who made the actual mosaics, but they were great, featuring endangered animals, with various mottoes encouraging people to work toward saving the animals.  And of course, I'm a sucker for children's art.

We encountered a number of school groups, from pre-schoolers through to senior high school students.  I chatted with a few of the older kids; one group was part of a photography class, and they had the field trip to photograph the plants and animals, focusing on either technical skills or to build their portfolio based on a theme.  Another group was a class on animal science, and they each had an animal assigned to them; their task was to take notes on what that particular animal was doing every minute.  One girl was in charge of time as well as an animal - they were watching the gibbons and siamangs (a monkey-ish animal) - so she'd call out "minute twelve" and they'd all jot down what their animal was doing.  Then "minute thirteen" and they'd all write something down.  The girl tracking the baby gibbon was busy, since the baby was swinging and hopping all over the place.  But one of the older siamangs was just sitting in some bushes, doing absolutely nothing - and that poor girl was so disappointed to keep writing "resting" every time.  They were funny.

But I'm not sure who was funnier - the little boy, maybe 3 or 4 years old, who asked me to pick him up so he could see the tiger (I just pointed him out, I didn't want the teachers to think I was kidnapping this child) - or the second grade boys, all of whom seemed to focus on the giraffe's excretionary habits rather than the giraffe's intake of food.  They were yelling and totally grossed out, or maybe just totally fascinated.  The teacher tried to shush them, they keep pointing out what was going on, finally the teacher gathered them together and tried to hustle them out of there.  She caught my eye, shook her head, and said, "Boys!"  (She doesn't know - they're like that until seventh grade.  Then they switch to sex.)

Suddenly, it was quiet.  About 2:30 PM.  All students and teachers were gone.  There was a hush over the zoo, as only the families and groups of seniors (elderly seniors, not young seniors like us) walked around.

And then all those cockatoos from across the street came flying over the zoo, in huge squadrons, with more screeching and squawking and all kinds of noise.  I'm not sure what was going on, but they seemed to have it timed to create maximum ruckus.

So that was our day at the zoo.  We both had a great time.  And it was a beautiful day - warm and sunny, but not overly hot, with a nice brisk breeze.  Just a perfect day.

All we needed was a koala to cuddle.

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