21 December 2012

Ballarat Wildlife Park

I have lived in Melbourne for 30 years and have never heard of the Ballarat Wildlife Park which is a mere 90 minutes away.  A dear friend introduced us to the Park on a recent trip and the journey was well worth the effort.

Kangaroos are a dime a dozen in this country.  You hear about them, you see them on TV, they're Qantas Airlines' iconic emblem, you visit them in the zoo, yet nothing prepared me for the up close and personal experience we were about to have.

The Ballarat Wildlife Park is essentially home to several troops of free ranging kangaroos, along with wombats, reptiles (they're not free ranging, just in case you were wondering), koalas, emus, flightless birds and other smaller animals.

The moment we entered the park we were greeted by a couple of smaller kangaroos, who were keenly searching for the food I held in my hand.  Trini wasn't sure whether she should be excited that she was hand feeding kangas or totally freak out.  Most of the day she remained in this limbo state until the much larger kangaroos (standing at 6 feet tall) was too much to bear and found herself climbing up my friend until he placed her on his shoulders (good strong shoulders there Peter).  Admittedly even I got nervous with the bigger ones and quite happily gained distance from them.

Trini comfortable feeding this little one.
The kangas are quite accustomed to people and being hand fed is as much a pass time for them as it is for the visitor.  Whilst still wild to some degree, treating them with respect means that they are unlikely to behave unexpectedly and visitors have the opportunity to share a rare experience.  I thoroughly enjoyed patting them and being amongst them.  Their fur was wonderfully soft, not quite what I expected.  They don't flinch nor take off if you approach them.  This pic of my friend's son is testimony to it.

Cuddles all round like old friends.
The rest of the highlights at the Park are the shows of 15-20 minutes each where the keepers introduced the koala, boa constrictor, wombat and alligators.  The chance to get close to the first three allows the visitor to pat and interact with both the keeper and the animal.  The alligator show was great from the other side of the glass.

Boa Constrictor

I was convinced Trini would be petrified of going anywhere near the boa constrictor.  Well look at her.  She couldn't handle the big kangas but thought the Boa was beautiful with nice smooth skin.

One of the largest snakes in the world, the Boa is not venomous but just as dangerous.  It will wait silently and patiently for its prey and then coil itself around it squeezing each time the prey takes a breath until it takes no more breaths.


This adorable looking animal is often referred to as a Koala Bear but it's actually not a bear.  Apparently its closest relative is the wombat, not that I can see any resemblance.

With its thick, plush, wooly fur the koala would be totally huggable if it weren't for its sharp claws used for climbing trees.  They also tend to smell like cough drops because eucalyptus leaves are their only source of diet.

Much as the koala is native to Australia, it can only be found in the forests on the eastern side of the country.


This heavyweight nocturnal animal that can weigh as much as 40kg is the size of a pea weighing 1 gram when it's born.  They spend two-thirds of their lives underground often renovating old burrows that may have been dug centuries ago.

The female wombat is usually larger than the male, usually grumpier especially if she has a baby and will usually try to hog the food too.

Funnily enough when wombats fight one another, they usually try to bite each other on the bum.

Ready to scamper off and explore but the keeper had alternate plans.
Maybe another day.

Alligator Feeding

Now anyone brave enough to enter an alligator pit to feed, to play, to tease, is either crazy or dedicated.  The boys in this pit were switched on (in case the alligator had other plans for them), quick on their feet and always ready to jump clear.

The simplest way to differentiate a crocodile from an alligator is by their snout.  The croc's is long and narrow, whilst the alligator is wide and a little shorter.  Also the croc's 4th tooth on the lower jaw sticks out when the snout is closed, unlike the alligator's.  Not that I would consider getting that close to find out.

Trini was absolutely thrilled with the feeding session and the frenzy the keepers were creating for entertainment.  There was no way on earth I could pull her away from the show until it was completely finished and the alligators returned to their usual position of just laying still, looking boring.

Come just a little closer my friend. 
You look juicier than the mice you are feeding me.

My friends joke about my girl's fear of anything that moves and it's true.  She sees a cat or dog and she freaks out.  I had no idea how she would handle this wildlife park which was full of "anything that moves". 

However, with a little encouragement to be more like her latest favorite Princess Merida from the movie Brave, she summoned all her courage and did exceptionally well.  What I didn't anticipate was her fascination with a huge snake and scaly reptiles.

In the end the experience was tremendous.  The wildlife parks throughout the world generally attempt to bring awareness to the plight of animals who are hunted, become homeless due to deforestation and many are on the brink of extinction.  This park's objective is no different and whilst it is not as big as other zoos, it is different in that people can interact with the kangaroos at close range.

Thanks for visiting.  Ya'll come back again soon.