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).