Ok, I’ll admit it, until very recently, I had never been to Australia Zoo. This is despite having lived within 50-odd kilometres of this global tourism icon for most of my life.
I think this is because zoos have just never really been my thing. You know, it’s the whole, oh look, there’s another sentient being in a cage, looking bored, thing.
But I knew that Australia Zoo as an organisation is much more than just a zoo, being committed to important wildlife conservation and education programs.
So when my son’s prep excursion to Australia Zoo was announced, curiosity peaked and I was keen to spend a day with my little one and check out the big AZ for myself.
I also have a thing for crocodiles – they are amazing apex predators, perfectly evolved during the Triassic and relatively unchanged since then.
Of course, Steve Irwin’s legacy as a wildlife warrior, animal rescuer and conservation crusader is legendary.
It’s been 11 years since Steve died, after being pierced in the chest by a stingray while filming a documentary prophetically titled, Ocean’s Deadliest. I am truly, not worthy, but I was humbled to pay my respects none-the-less.
So off to the Zoo we went in the school bus! The excitement amongst the kids was palpable and didn’t stop until exhaustion kicked towards the end of the day.
The conditions and treatment of the animals at the Zoo was, of course, of the highest standard. There were animal carers everywhere, cuddling, feeding or preening a mind-boggling array of species not only from Australia, but from all over the world.
The kids were enraptured to see animals and the opportunities to touch and interact with species like kangaroos and snakes, was a tactile bonus.
Massive, really-cool-life-size dinosaur replicas litter the park, captivating the imaginations of kids of all ages.
The zoo’s piece-di-resistance is the noon crocodile show with live croc feeding. The arena was packed and the passion of all of the staff involved for the animals was a constant theme throughout the spectacle.
While the oh-ahhs were in full swing as the excursion progressed, the Zoo’s conservation purpose and educational agenda was what impressed me the most.
What a journey – from the Beerwah Reptile and Fauna Park in the 1970’s, the Irwin family has created not only an internationally famous wildlife sanctuary, but conservation and education projects that are making a difference worldwide.
The list is impressive:
- funding conservation projects to protect species including crocodiles, tigers, wombats, elephants and cheetah
- purchasing half a million acres of Australian bushland for conservation
- coordinating the Wildlife Warriors to involve other caring people to support the protection of injured, threatened or endangered wildlife
- operating the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital – the world’s largest wildlife hospital and treatment facility
- breeding endangered species
- supporting a wide range of organisations including Sea Sheppard and Fauna and Flora International
- running a campaign to Say NO to the consumption and sales of wildlife products
For an operation that could just rest on its laurels as a successful tourist attraction, it is these layers of involvement in a global conservation effort that for me, mark this epicentre as something well worth supporting.
Australia Zoo is situated along Steve Irwin Way at Beerwah, about a half hour drive south from Noosa and is comfortable day-trip option. The Zoo is open 9.00am – 5.00 daily.