It has been at least six or seven years since I last visited a zoo, but a visit seemed called for since I wanted to see native Australian animals. The Perth Zoo is just a short walk away from the ferry pier in South Perth, which itself is just a short boat ride from downtown Perth.
The Perth Zoo has over 1,000 animals from around the world, but I spent most of my time in the Australian Bushwalk portion of the park. Here I saw the native Emus and Cassowaries; Kangaroos and Wallabies; Numbats and Wombats; Quokkas and Echidna; Koalas and Dingos; and Little Penguins and Tasmanian Devils. Until I visited, I had never heard of numbats, quokkas, or echidna, but I don’t feel too bad because apparently neither has the spellchecker that I use in this blog!
Emus and Cassowaries are large flightless birds that can reach up to six feet tall and weigh as much as 130 pounds. While both birds are in the same family, I think that the cassowary is more attractive with its bright blue head. Both birds have three toes with sharp claws that they use for defense, both can run up to 30 mph, and both can swim.
Kangaroos and Wallabies are marsupials that look quite similar to each other. Wallabies are smaller than kangaroos; wallabies have pointed ears (more like a deer) while kangaroos have more rounded ears (more like a rabbit); wallabies’ coats have two or three colors while kangaroo’s have one; Wallabies have shorter, more compact arms and legs while kangaroos have longer ones. Unlike most animals that are kept apart from the visitors, both the kangaroos and wallabies wandered freely among the guests in the Australian section of the zoo.
Numbats and Wombats are marsupials with sharp claws that live in burrows and, of course, they have similar sounding names. The similarities, however, end there. Wombats are herbivores; they are two to three feet long and weigh between 40 and 75 pounds. Numbats are insectivores who dine exclusively on termites, as many as 20,000 per day; they are twelve to eighteen inches long and weigh less than two pounds. The wombat’s pouch faces backward so its young do not get covered with dirt when the female burrows into the earth.
Both animals use their backside to block entry into their homes by predators. The wombat has a very small tail and its rear is mostly cartilage so that it is difficult for predators — dingos and Tasmanian devils — to bite them when they are in their tunnels. The wombat can also use its hard rump to crush attackers against the walls of its tunnel. The numbat has a striped body and a very long tail but with very thick hide along its backside for protection.
Quokkas are herbivorous marsupials found only in southwest Australia. They grow to a length of between one and a half and three feet and a weight of between six to 12 pounds. Like kangaroos and wallabies, they have a pouch for their young. While they look a bit like very small kangaroos, they are able to climb trees.
Echidna are small mammals with a coarse, spiny coat that helps protect them against predators. The echidna uses its long, sticky tongue to gather the ants and termites that it eats. The echidna is known as a monotreme, which is a mammal that lays eggs; the platypus is the only other egg-laying mammal alive today. Three weeks after mating, the female echidna lays a leathery egg that it places in its pouch. The baby hatches after 10 days, but remains in the pouch for six to eight weeks while it matures.
Koalas are also herbivorous marsupials that grow to two to three feet in length and weigh between 10 and 30 pounds. Koalas are like teenagers — they are typically asocial and they sleep 17 to 20 hours a day! Their sedentary lifestyle is the result of a eucalyptus leaf diet that is very low in nutritional value.
The dingo is the largest predator in Australia preying on rabbits, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, geese, and rodents, but also livestock, primarily calves, sheep, and goats. Dingos kill by biting at the throat of their prey. Highly social animals that live in packs in well-defined territories, they will hunt large animals with coordinated attacks. Typically just the alpha male and female breed each year producing litters of five to ten pups. If subordinate females get pregnant, their off-spring are usually killed by the alpha pair. The dingo can grow to be two feet tall, five feet in length, and weigh up to 50 pounds.
Little penguins — and that is their name — are, not surprisingly, the smallest species of penguin, weighing around 3 pounds and standing about one foot tall. They are found on the southern coast of Australia and all around New Zealand. The ones in the zoo seemed to enjoy swimming in the current in their enclosure.
Tasmanian devils are carnivorous marsupials that both hunt prey and eat carrion, typically during the night. Its head and body can reach two feet in length and its tail can add another foot to its overall length. They, too, seemly aptly named with their black fur, loud screeching, sharp bite, and unpleasant odor. The Tasmanian devil went extinct on the Australian mainland about 3,000 years ago, most likely because of dingos, and today it only exists on the island state of Tasmania.
While the major reason for my trip to the zoo was to see the native animals, the zoo also had an impressive collection of animals from around the world including lions, tigers, rhinoceros, zebras, giraffes, and a huge crocodile. Some of the orangutans were very active, swinging on ropes and carrying on; the one down pictured below, however, wanted nothing to do with his younger, more active counterparts. Many days, I think I know just how he feels.
Next stop: Nashville
If you have not yet heard, my time in Bangkok will end several months earlier than initially planned. I will be heading back to the U.S. on September 5th, and I will be relocating to Nashville. Another adventure awaits!
Kop Khun Krab
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