Saturday, January 8, 2011

Adelaide's Aussie Animals... Gorge Wildlife Park

Well... be warned. This post contains gratuitous animal photos... mostly in extreme states of undress. Actually, I think they could be ALL completely naked. So if you find nude animals distasteful, please turn off now. Of course, if you find nude animals quite appealing, then perhaps you should turn off now anyhow (there are sites for that sort of thing, but this isn't one of them).

This post describes one of the smaller zoos that can be found up in the Adelaide Hills... a perennial favourite with children (and adults) of all ages. It's called the Gorge Wildlife Park which is a sort of strange - very Australian - sort of zoo. It's in a place called - somewhat disturbingly - Cudlee Creek (and there's lots of cuddly critters around). It's a fairly long and windy road to get there (see below) and care should be taken driving along this road (it's a favourite for motorcyclists with more cc's than brain cells). Still, it's a very nice drive... The park costs $14 for adults and $8 for children (as of Jan 2010)... and it's recommended that you also purchase some feed for the animials
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And there are a lot of them... and we may as well start with one of my favourites... the good ol' wombat. Which is notoriously nocturnal (and hence you won't get to see much from the natural bulldozers of the bush during the heat of the day).

There are a large number of wallabies (small versions of kangaroos for the non-Aussie-animal-initiates). And some of these are kept in protected areas.

All of the animals however are allowed to be fed by the visitors... indeed they sell food at the park entrance (but I assume you can bring your own as well). The food is a bit odd - a choice of milk-coffee biscuits or peanuts. Hmmm... not the first thing that I would think of when I imagine their natural diet. The park insists that these things are treats and do not affect their natural diet. However... with the amount of biscuits and peanuts that were being handed out, it's hard to see how they wouldn't be affected.

We didn't really feed the animals much... but that didn't stop us taking the opportunity to take lots of photos with the animals. Many of the animals (especially kangaroos and wallabies) are roaming free, and are happy to have a pat (and/or a feed). L-kun was happy to oblige.

For those that know that kangaroos have a pouch, you might be quite surprised just how big the joey's (baby kangaroos) can grow and still get a free ride.

And sometimes they hardly know up from down (here the joey's gone in head first, with it's big hind legs sticking out). Somehow they can find room in there to turn themselves around. Children... always causing a fuss.

And no sooner have they left the home, and they're looking to come back again.

Actually Gorge Wildlife Park is also famous for it's large number of albino kangaroos. Now, personally, I'm not sure that this is such a great claim to fame. Not a fan of the albino kangaroos. Especially the ones the make you think you're seeing double.

There's also a lot of birdlife in and around the park. Now this is what I call a nest! I didn't know that ibis were so communal. Or that they apparently shared some genetic throwback to otters/beavers...
(ok... I made up that bit about the genetic throwback).

They even have a whole heap of emus... Australia's version of the ostrich. When they're small, they look sooo cute.

And here's what they look like mature... well, this isn't the best photo, sorry. You might have to use your imagination a bit here. They're about 5-6 foot tall (at least), and and they have a very inquisitive nature (and a very aggressive beak as well, at times). They tend not to accept no as an answer.

And just in case you're wondering what an ostrich is (for comparison)... the park also has them as well.

I have to say that ostriches are like the avian alpaca to me. Quite cute, but if you look into their eyes for too long, you might find yourself going stark raving mad.

Of course one of the real favourites in the park are the koalas. No that's not koala bear - they have no relationship with bears at all, but unfortunately the old-fashioned name still goes around.

And whilst you might be thinking "Awwww - ain't he a cute little fella", then you might be in for a surprise if you have a close encounter with one out in the bush. Those claws of theirs are great for climbing trees, but they also make pretty good gouging instruments as well.

With that warning... the park actually does do koala holding. Hmmm - I know that this is a great thing for visitors (to get their photo holding a koala), but I do wonder how this all goes with the animals health (that and the diet of milk coffee biscuits and peanuts... I wonder if they also knock back a beer or two of an evening). Well, anyway, sometimes you need to put aside your inner qualms and just go with the flow. Brave T-chan stood up to the plate for this photo-op. Funny how L-kun doesn't look too relaxed. Perhaps his mind is still on the whole claw thing. Supposedly however, the thing to worry about koalas are not their claws (which were a bit too hard for T-chan's liking)... but rather the risk of urination down the front. Luckily these koalas were well de-juiced before hand. T-chan's getting clucky.

And here's some maternal instinct of another kind.... emphasizing that being a mother can drive you batty. (apologies for the bad puns... it's a curse).

And here's some more gratuitous bird photos...a falcon (I think)

And somethings that I took for birds - and living - but which I'm not entirely sure (as they didn't move a muscle in over 2 minutes). Whatever they were, they could do with some social skills. Actually, if there's one complaint that I have is that the signage in the park leaves a lot to be desired. There's a lot here that you just don't know what it is.

And it wouldn't be an Aussie wildlife park without it's very own Kookaburra.

And that's not that Australian. Is it? Well, no camels are not native to Australia... but they did play an important role in the early history of the country when they were used as "trains"... carting supplies around the countryside (and the deserts in particular). Indeed they were even used to cart pianos (or at least pianolas around the country as well). Australia owes a lot to these beautiful beasts of burden.

And here are some peanuts as proof of our appreciation.

Speaking of the outback... the dingo is an iconic image of outback Australia... however, you won't see too many native dingoes around Adelaide. Indeed in a feat of engineering brilliance (or stupidity) Australia constructed it's own great wall of china in the form of a 5,500 km long dingo fence in the 1880's that was meant to keep them out of the fertile south eastern part of the country - including most of South Australia. Apparently it was at least partially successful.

Of course another of the our northern fauna friends that we'd definitely like to keep out of the southern states are the crocodiles. However... that is not what these fine fellows are. They're actually American Alligators. Couldn't you tell the difference...and if you really wanted to know you can check out here.

For myself, I'm not sure I'd be taking the time out to investigate. Actually I have to say that we had quite a scare here.... when we found that the fence that overlooks the alligator enclosure is definitely scalable by a 3 yo. Be careful. I'm sure these guys are well fed (and docile) but would anyone risk it. Mark this up as negative number two about the park. 

Whilst it's a parents responsibility to look out for their children, there are some things that are better taken with extra precaution. A fence that can't be climbed by children would be one of those precautions.  Hmmm... you know - changing the topic slightly... I'm not sure I'd want anything made from this fella's skin. That looks like some sort of ancient mountain nursery.

Speaking of all things vicious and nasty - the Tasmanian Devil. Ok - I admit that he doesn't look that vicious now. But they have a well-earned reputation amonst Australian carnivores. Then again, we don't actually have that many carnivores in Australia. They tend to make a very loud (and slightly scary) sound when they communicate with each other - sort of like. HOW YA DOIN' - DO YOU WANT ME TO BITE YOUR 'EAD OFF?!?! But in a high-pitched but gutteral kinda way. Right now however, he's getting ready for a snooze - he'll be counting wombats in his dream shortly...

Unfortunately the Devil population (unfortunate name really) is being decimated by a virus-borne facial cancer. Literally the entire population is being threatened by this horrible disease.

Random photo of monkey. No - we do not have any native monkeys in Australia either.

Finally - we end the tour (which is only a fraction of the animals available) with some more wallabies. The afternoon was rapidly turning into evening, and we had a bbq to go home to. So cleaning off the last of our peanuts... we made our own tracks for home after a very enjoyable 3 hours in the Gorge Wildlife Park. I'd defnitely recommend it as a cheap, fun place to go... especially for children. It's close interactivity with the animals makes it a special place to visit... but don't expect to see zoo-keepers or helpful signs. On the last sunday of the month they also do an "unleashed" activity where they bring some of the animals out of their environments to socialise more closely with the animals. Hope that doesn't include the alligators.

This guy looks like he's already had a few cold ones... and as summer approaches in full-strength here in Adelaide, that's not such a bad idea. Hope you all have a good weekend, wherever you are.

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