27 November 2012

Melbourne Zoo

Melbourne Zoo is one of three wildlife reserves managed by Zoo Victoria.  Only 4km from the city centre, the zoo opened in 1862 making it the oldest zoo in Australia.  Initially established to acclimatise domestic animals imported from abroad, eight years later it was refashioned into a wildlife reserve by introducing exotic animals for public display.  Today, it houses 320 animal species.

This is Trini's second trip to Melbourne Zoo.  Her first one was two and half years ago when she was barely 18 months old.  Her love of animals has not waned and with us living in Singapore now in the last two years she has been to the Singapore Zoo at least 12 times.  A return trip to Melbourne Zoo was to be expected during our current visit to Australia and well worth it.  Trini had the opportunity to see the gorillas on this occasion (during her last visit she fell asleep and missed the chance), wild dogs, a sleeping brown bear and the adorable wombats who were also snoozing.  None of these animals are at the Singapore Zoo so they were a welcome addition to Trini's mental collage of animals.

The animals are organised in bioclimatic zones such as the gorilla in the African rainforest, the Sumatran tiger in the Asian rainforest and the koala and kangaroo in the Australian bush.  Other exhibits feature the Butterfly house, an aviary, reptile house, small cats, sea life and tree-top monkeys.

Several conservation campaigns are underway to help fight against extinction.  Many of these wonderful animals are endangered species and the Melbourne Zoo just like the Singapore Zoo are proactive in getting the word out, seeking support from corporates and the public, conservation work locally and internationally and ongoing research programs.

Since many of the well-known animals were briefly described in my Singapore Zoo blog, in this one I will concentrate on a different collection of animals.

Gorilla - Known as the silverback, the troop is usually led by a single, dominant male.  They usually live in troops of up to 20 gorillas.  Females don't associate much with each other as they usually vie for the attention of the silverback.  When the silverback wants to be heard he "stands on his hind legs and throws leaves and twigs into the air. He then beats his chest with his hands and runs back and forth tearing up the vegetation. He ends the display by beating the ground with the palms of his hands. [Zoo Victoria]"

Sumatran Tiger - Proficient swimmers, they can cross rivers that are 7-8 km wide.  Smallest of all tigers it is believed that they were isolated to Sumatra Island, Indonesia when the sea levels rose, thereby cutting them off from other land masses. They are one of nine subspecies of tiger (of which three species are already extinct).

Snow Leopard - Living high in the Asian mountains, the snow leopard is a solitary hunter.  As it inhabits cold and snowy environments, the snow leopard has developed big and furry feet that function similar to four snowshoes. Its tail is longer than other similar species as it is used to cover the nose and mouth if temperature drops too low and the tail also helps with balancing when traversing steep and sometimes icy, mountainous slopes.

Image courtesy of Monash University website

Lemurs - Endemic to Madagascar and fondly remembered as the kooky self-proclaimed "king" in Disney's flick Madagascar, the lemur is a social animal who lives in groups of up to fifteen.  To solidify relationships and ease tensions, lemurs groom socially.

Black-Capped Capuchin - Are intelligent monkeys residing in the Amazon jungle.  They are experts at leaping, climbing and swinging, are social animals and live in large groups.

Reptiles - Are neither birds nor mammals.  They are cold-blooded and in order to maintain their body temperature they need an external source, ie the sun (hence why so many of them are found lazing in the sun).  There are 8,000+ species of reptiles in the world and can be found on every continent except Antarctica.  Below is a collection found at the zoo's reptile house.

Green Iguana of Central America and the Caribbean

Fijian Crested Iguana

Philippines Crocodile, the world's rarest croc (less than 200 left)

Double-Crested Basilisk of Latin America.
Runs on water for several meters before sinking and swimming.
Frilled Lizard native to Australia
Zoo #1 of 3 complete.  Trini is looking forward to Healesville Sanctuary (aka Zoo #2 as dictated by Trini) which is home to Australian wildlife.

Illustrating a brown bear (who was sleeping
and unavailable for us at the time of our visit).

26 November 2012

Fibreglass Elephants Celebrating Melbourne Zoo's 150th Anniversary

During this afternoon's visit to the Melbourne Zoo, Trini and I encountered a collection of life-size fibreglass elephants each with their own uniquely painted design.  Further research brought our attention to Melbourne Zoo's 150th birthday.

The Zoo's website best explains how they celebrated this momentous occasion:
Mali in the City was the flagship event of Melbourne Zoo's 150th anniversary celebrations. During this one-of-a-kind public art event, a herd of 50 artist-designed Malis were exhibited on the city's streets and later back at Melbourne Zoo.
On October 25 the entire herd went under the hammer at Auction with all monies raised from the sale of the Malis going to our zoos conservation work. The Malis have already started to leave Melbourne Zoo, on route to their new homes.
In January 2010, the "first elephant calf ever to be born at the zoo" was welcomed with much anticipation and fanfare.  Following a naming contest and 34,000 votes the baby elephant was named Mali.  The fibreglass elephant design is based on Mali.

Trini and I had the pleasure of meeting Mali in March 2010 and we are happy to report that she has grown quite a bit and is apparently due to become a big sister in November 2013.

Mali - 2 months old (March 2010)
Of the 50 artist-designed elephants only 11 remained at the zoo awaiting shipment.  A kaleidoscope of colour and design, each elephant introduced an artist and his/her vision for the elephant.

The seven elephants below were my favorites amongst the eleven still on display.

Steve Monk - Elvis as an elephant - it seems even elephants can impersonate the King.

Kevin Presley
Russ Brebner - Created from recycled and reclaimed metals.

Rusty Mali
Sally Heinrich - The sculpture is a result of a community-led project to capture the many faces of Victoria.  The Herald Sun newspaper invited its young readers to submit self-portraits, which were interpreted by the artist and then transferred onto the elephant.

Deborah Halpern - Mali, the paradoxical little elephant was born in captivity to represent the endangered creatures on our planet.  Mali shines light on the plight of the planet and our part in the health and well being of the animals, plants, air and water.

Mali, Protector of all Animals
Pat Minahan - The 'magic' of Melbourne is translated to Mali using a snowflake design, reflecting the imaginative world of children in a winter wonderland.

Mali's Melbourne Winter Wonderland
Vanessa Bong - Knowing that the orange-bellied parrot was one of our rarest and most endangered species, I was inspired to create a flying flock to create a pattern of overwhelming colour and brightness.

A Pattern of Orange-Bellied Parrots
Elise Martinson - Animals have been a powerful source of inspiration and symbolism for people since the cave men began making marks on stone.  Even the modern day fantasy worlds in popular culture have been heavily influenced by what occurs in nature. 

So congratulations Melbourne Zoo.  We wish you all the success for the next 150 years.  You certainly provide much excitement and delight to my little girl and we look forward to many more return visits.

Trini and her little friend.