Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Adelaide Zoo.... It's a Panda-demic

This summer we've been hitting the animals pretty well - L-kun has been getting into zoos and things a lot recently. So, one morning we decided to head off to the Adelaide Zoo which is right in the heart of the city, next to the River Torrens. Adelaide Zoo costs about $28 per adult, but L-kun (being under 4) was free.... and it's undergone quite a facelift over the last year or so since we've been here. The main reason for that upgrade is our hairy black and white friend up above (but more of that later). Actually, as it was opened in 1883, Adelaide Zoo is the second oldest zoo in Australia, and the only major zoo to be operated in a not-for-profit way.

Now I've just posted on Sapporo's zoo, known as Maruyama Zoo... and I spoke at length about the moral dilemma about zoos (whether captive animals are good, regardless of the joy and empathy they bring - especially to young children). I won't get on the soap box again... thankfully.

We begin our tour with the Hippopotamus... which surprisingly L-kun says very clearly. I'm not sure why he says it so well as I don't think he's particularly fond of hippos. And the hippos (there's two of them) spend most of their time submerged beneath the surface of a long "pond" that they stroll up and down.

There's not much shy about our lion friends.... I've taken photos of the lionesses as the resident male Lion is a bit of a sad affair. The poor lad suffers from seizures (especially brought on by hot weather), and actually has a bit of trouble finding his meat. I guess in the wild, he'd have most likely made for a very short visitor to this world... but here in Adelaide he is being looked after well. Unfortunately due to his "condition" he's kept separate from the two lionesses.

At the end of the day however, they're still cats, and cats love a good clean. I'll have to introduce you to our own cat one of these days soon. He doesn't look much like these at all (though his weight, unfortunately, may not be that different).

And speaking of cute... you can't get much cuter than an otter having a snooze in a hollowed tree. Awwwww... That's too cute.

Perhaps the only thing cuter would be the mongoose... these are on my top 5 cute animals. Ok, to some they might look like rats that like to stand around a lot... but to me they're just a big furry bag of cute.

Now how could anyone not want to eat cuddle one of these babies. Awww... 

My cute capacity has just about reached it's limit.... need to see the next animal. Perhaps something mean and ferocious with big pointy teeth (a crocodile, or perhaps a snake or two)... Or not.

I may as well get all of the cute out of the way. Adelaide Zoo's claim to fame is that we now house one of the few Panda outside of China. Their names are Wang Wang (the male...) which translates apparently to "Net Net" and Funi (the female) which translates to "Lucky Girl".  I could be wrong, but I think Wang Wang got the twang-twang on his name-name. Net Net? Sometimes it's better not to know the translation.

Now, such is the popularity of the Panda's that you actually have to book a time to see them when you get your tickets at the front gate... sort of like the Free Pass at Disneyland. The slots are about 1 hour long, and are generally jam-packed. A word of advice - don't bother waiting in the long line to go into to see the Pandas... aim to get there about 5 mins after the alloted time... no waiting, and you'll see more than enough.

When we arrived, both Panda were in their "inside" pens. Another bit of advice - don't think you'll be taking brilliant photos of them inside unless you have a polarising filter on your camera. The glass is super-reflective, and it's mission impossible. The enclosure apparently cost about $8 million...and they couldn't even afford to put some anti-reflective film on their glass... please people... think!

Wang Wang

The other thing (regretfully) that they don't do particularly well in Adelaide Zoo is crowd control. The groups are perhaps 80-100 people strong, and they all want to crowd up to the glass as soon as they can. Makes dealing with the reflections a comparatively small problem. Eventually the sea of people will part however, and then you can sit back and enjoy listening to the zoo keepers tell a little bit of info about the Great Panda.

Wang Wang is placid, whilst Funi more playful. I suspect placid is code for "disinterested"... which may be code for something else... but time will tell on that count. Playful is code for...well, playful. After about 20 - 30 mins, the doors to the outside areas were opened. I should add at this point, that the two pandas are separated however. So you're not going to be catching any Panda on Panda action as each has their own separate outdoor area (which they alternate between - apparently to keep them stimulated by the different surroundings). Wang Wang spent most of this time just sitting around, looking pretty surly. That could be either the whole "Net Net" thing, or perhaps the "separation is a good thing, really..." thing.

Funi however was a treat, and was always walking around looking at things, exploring and of course also eating. I think she loved the camera and would quite happily pose, give one profile, then the next etc etc. I think she'd be the clear crowd favourite.

 Panda's eat a lot of bamboo... but not just bamboo. They will eat all sorts of things (including a carrot ice-block... by that I mean a carrot stuck in a block of ice). Also, these Panda's apparently only sleep 1 hour a day... according to the Zoo Keeper. That must be one helluva power nap. It also means that they spend a great deal of time eating. In the wild about 30-40kg of bamboo a day. Man... you can't complain about meat-n-three-veg dinner compared to that diet.

So final thoughts on the Panda... well, like any sane person facing a Panda for the first time, with a camera in their hand when , I couldn't stop taking photos (most of which didn't really turn out)... They are cute - in a teddy bear way...but they don't have the most exciting of lives. I mean, a life of eating...what kind of existence is that?.... er..... hmmmm.... I'll get back to you on that one.
T-chan and L-kun watch Funi...
And if you get tired of the real thing, you can always pose with the imposters. L-kun did a great magic trick of being smiley until he realised that there was a line up of people waiting for us to take a photo. Then it was a case of lips zipped shut. Still, an unbeknownst smile is still nice.

Okay... now back to the other animals (who must be insanely jealous after the 12 months or so of Panda-modium - sorry that was a very sad pun). [As an aside - did you know that the word pandemonium was originally a name used by Milton for the Capital of Hell in Paradise Lost...I find the entomology of words a strangely wonderful thing, yet ultimately an almost useless past-time]

Now L-kun loves giraffes as well - but mostly for a particular association from our last trip to Japan (I'll post about this in a while). The giraffe experience in Adelaide was pretty dry however (and I don't just mean lacking in water). At least the two have each other for company. It does makes me wonder however - what happens if animals dislike one another? Can you imagine being stuck in an enclosure 24x7 with another animal you can't stand?

Changing tack a little, there's quite a lot of bird-life that can be seen in the walk-through aviaries in the Zoo. Note - I sometimes get a little intolerant at other people's lack of common-sense. For example, the aviaries have twin door "airlocks" - you're only supposed to keep one open at any given time to stop the birds escaping. Most people just walk through without thinking, leaving both doors open and a break for freedom beckoning... I should be more tolerant of people's short-comings...and by the end of the day, I learnt a little lesson in humility of my own....
And a big thankyou for anyone that can identify this bird!

Now - there are birds, then there are birds. We've seen some emus and ostriches before... but the double-wattled Cassowary is a whole new kinda bird. It looks 80% Jurassic, and it must be said that they might be as aggressive. Indeed the Zoo Keepers don't enter the enclosure whilst the solitary female is present for fear (I guess) of getting a rather close encounter of the painful variety. You might think that the "casque" on the head is the main weapon... it's not a weapon at all... instead, like our friend the emu it's the kick that can do the damage.

Adelaide has two (1xChilean and 1xGreater) flamingos which are at once beautiful, and yet in a way grotesque. They have taken elegance to the point almost of self-carricature. And yet, they remain a long time favourite at the zoo residing in the oldest enclosure known simply as the Grotto. And perhaps they deserve pride of place, for example the Chilean Flamingo arrived in the zoo in 1948... that's 63 years ago. He's the young'un. 
Chilean Flamingo

The Greater Flamingo is now about 78 years of age. Actually in a sad indictment of my home, in 2008 the then 75-ish year old flamingo was attacked by two youths aged 17 and left in a perilous condition. The birds themselves are allowed to wander around the Grotto... and access is not restricted.
The Greater Flamingo
I said before how the Flamingo is so elegant it's almost grotesque.... unfortunately, they have nature to thank for that. The grotesqueness of humanity (even in isolated events) can be truly sad. Thankfully the bird recovered. For people that would attack a defenceless 75 year old bird, I wonder if there's any fixing them. I can only hope.

On more cheerful note - there's always the apes to brighten up your day. The Spider Monkey is always a great sight (hmmm... given my last post, I think this is one spider T-chan wouldn't mind).
Spider Monkey

Tamarins are also a popular attraction. They're so incredibly small... and amazingly chirpy. I can just imagine my army of Tamarin soldiers sweeping over the world <insert maniacal laughter here>.

A more appropriate soldier for my Army of the 12 Monkeys would of course be the baboon. I don't like baboons. We studied them in Primary School... and ever since that time, I've had a distinct dislike for them. They may not be that far removed from us biologically, but I always felt that it was the worst side of us that they were closest to. Don't ask me why.

Could it be the way they always stare, as if to say - I know it, you know it... if you step in here I'm gonna kick your asinine butt from here to Africa. You didn't see that on Madagascar 2 did you? Of course, I apologize unreservedly to all the really good baboons out there that I've entirely maligned in this post. Please reply via comments below.

Now to show that I'm not entirely a brut, or that I'm completely animal-crazy, I thought I'd thrown in a couple more photos of some lovely lily flowers that you find around the zoo.

Lilies are Nature's punctuation...

And after that brief aquatic segue, we come to that part of the story where I eat humble pie. After having shook my head in dismay regarding people that don't read signs (re: closing doors in aviaries), we ended our day in the seahorse display. Now seahorses are a miracle of over-design, and most probably shouldn't exist. They're endlessly amazing to watch - and to photograph... but they're not the most robust of animals. So here I was, being careful to abide the rules and not disturb them as I was about to take a photo of one of them.

Pop goes my flash in a blaze of white light. Flash? How did that happen?... I recall reading a sign just two seconds ago. "Please do not use flashes as this can kill sea horses". Gulp. What have I done? Thankfully I was using my long lens and was therefore a long way away... but still, a sudden rush of guilt and remorse flooded over me. The seahorse seemed more or less completely nonplussed by the whole event, whereas I was an emotional wreck.
A non-flash photo of L-kun with Sea-horse...after I did the right thing

Now many of you who have digital SLRs and who spend most of your time looking through a viewfinder may relate to this. My Canon Kiss X3 (500D) has one annoying trait. If you're in auto mode (which I'm almost never in), the camera will decide when and if to deploy the flash which pops up and fires in an instant. It's no excuse to say it was a mistake... I should have been more careful, and I guess no matter how self-righteous you are, you're just as able as the next person to do something stupid.

Excuse me, Baboon-san... it's time for my ass-whooping now. Just wait till I bend over and find my happy place (trees and flowers... trees and flowers)...
My comeuppance

Overall - apart from near sea-horsicide, I have to say that the Adelaide Zoo's not a bad day out. There's more than enough animals, and other things to do (including a very good Children's Zoo which we missed out on this trip). I still have reservations about the whole animals in cages, but the enclosures are reasonably good (as good as they can be given the size constraints), and the children love it. Of course, you have to see the Panda's, and that'll take an hour just by itself. Just do two things for me... don't leave the aviary doors open, and don't forget to disable your flash when you see the sea-horses.


  1. These are the best wild animal photos I have ever seen in my life. I really love them, I would definitely go to visit Adelaide zoo.

  2. Thanks for that... but I'm not quite sure that they're that good... but taking photos keeps me off the streets (unless I'm taking photos of streets). Sorry for the lateness in getting back to you as I'm travelling in Japan right now.