Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Melbourne Zoo is one of three wildlife parks that make up Zoos Victoria, which also includes the Healdsburg Sanctuary and the Werribee Open Range Zoo. Between the three parks, they serve 1.6 million visitors every year, making Zoos Victoria the most popular tourist destination in the area. Melbourne Zoo is located only 4 kilometers from the heart of the city, and is very easy to get to by car or tram.
There are 320 species that reside within the zoo, and the entire organization is focused on conservation, education and creating experiences that will move the guests to take action to contribute to continued support of these programs and personal efforts they can make to further the causes that are the cornerstone of all the organization does. One of the most unique ways they accomplish really touching their human guests at the Melbourne Zoo is with animal encounters that are extremely close-up and personal. From having meerkats actually sitting in ones lap, to physically encountering the enormous but gentle Giant Tortoise, few other establishments offer this type of contact with so many different species.
The encounters range in price, and of course all proceeds help the continued efforts of conservation and education they promote. The most expensive but possibly also the most awe inspiring is the chance to encounter the zoos Asian Elephant calves, Mali and Ongard. Spending time with these intelligent, curious, and often silly beings is a once in a life time opportunity. There is also the chance to spend some time with kangaroos, one of many indigenous marsupials native to Australia. And finally, there is the Giraffe encounter, where one can witness close-up just what it’s like to eat with a tongue that is over a foot long! Each encounter comes with a 6 x 8 photo of you experience.
Continuing in the theme of enhanced personal experiences, there is also the overnight program “Roar and Snore”, where guests are able to “wine and dine” and sleep at the zoo, falling asleep to the sounds of the night activity often missed by day visitors. In the historic elephant house, built in the 1940’s, dinner is served and then there is a tour to visit the nocturnal animals at the zoo. Later, the evening is finished with the Roar in Snore hosts sharing stories of their personal experiences and tales of the passion that brought them to work with wild animals. There is an opportunity to get a good night’s rest, although the excitement of sleeping amongst wild beasts might keep some up. In the morning, the songs of gibbons and bird life of all kinds awaken the visitors, and breakfast is served before meeting some keepers, and having some behind the scenes visits.
Of course, the zoo features all kinds of fascinating creatures to be scene just by visiting, including a troop of eight Western Lowland Gorillas, one of many critically endangered great apes. Another great ape not to miss are the orangutans, the newest of the 6 being Dewi, who was born June 2010. In the wild, orangutan infants stay with their mothers until they are nine. This little lady is still quite dependent on Mama, and fun to watch, as is typical of all primate toddlers.
The key focus of conservation is played out with the captive breeding program of the world’s smallest tigers, another critically endangered species in great need of increased genetic diversity if they are to survive. The breeding program had great success last year with the birth of four Sumatran tiger cubs. The cats are in great danger of extinction larger due to hunting them to make traditional medicines, as well as loss of their rainforest habitat in their very limited range in Indonesia. Melbourne Zoo makes a determined effort to educate the public to these dangers. These efforts, as well as the breeding program, may go a long way towards long term survival of these beautiful large cats.
At the Wild Sea exhibit, the world’s smallest penguins, Australian Little Blue Penguins, can waddle about or zip through their special salt water “ocean”. They are also part of a special breeding program that helps provide chicks of this species to other accredited zoos to assist in keeping healthy captive populations. There is currently a family of 21 penguins at the Melbourne Zoo.
There is much more to do and see at Melbourne Zoo and much to learn. There are programs and information offered throughout the zoo about animal enrichment, which helps to keep captive animals engaged and healthy. There are also early childhood programs offered for all age groups, teaching young people how to create a habitat, or what captive care entails. They can learn all about the life of a zookeeper, and what it takes to make every work at the zoo.
As Australia’s oldest zoo (it first opened in 1862), Melbourne Zoo has had a lot of time to shape itself into a first-class educational experience and all-out fun attraction.
Located in Royal Park, just four kilometres from the city centre, Melbourne Zoo offers the opportunity to see some of the world’s most amazing wildlife without leaving the country. Not only can you view over 320 different species of wildlife as you walk around the exhibits, but there are also plenty of other attractions. These include meeting some of the zookeepers (at scheduled times), watching as the animals are fed, or taking part in a free, guided tour. To add even more to the experience, Melbourne Zoo features several unique exhibits, such as Trail of the Elephants, Butterfly House, Wild Sea and the Orang-utan Sanctuary.
Trail of the Elephants allows you into a reproduction of a small Asian village, where you can view the Zoo’s five elephants (including the two baby elephants that caused such a sensation when they were born). The Butterfly House is a large walk-through tropical glasshouse that is home to many different coloured species of butterfly, while Wild Sea is an exhibit that features seals, penguins and other marine life.
The Orang-utan Sanctuary is home to several gorgeous orang-utans, who play on the ropes and wooden beams of their treetop-climbing frame, all the while reminding us of how few there are left in the wild. As well as these popular attractions, you can also view a host of other creatures, including lions, tigers, zebras, bears, gorillas, Australian wildlife and much more. You’re likely to get very hungry as you roam around, especially when you see the animals tucking into their own food. Luckily, there are many options for dining at the zoo (there are kiosks and restaurants located throughout) and if you wish, you can even bring your own picnic lunch to enjoy on the expansive lawns.
There is also a fantastic gift shop that sells zoo memorabilia and a huge range of stuffed toys. Although it takes about three hours to visit all of the animals and attractions at Melbourne Zoo, you could easily spend an entire day there, just soaking up the atmosphere. It’s a great day out for all.