Koala Park

I don’t patronize zoos. I think it is inherently wrong for humans to cage and gawk at animals, and when I find myself in situations where I see a caged animal, I get rather upset. I either have to hold back tears, or I get very angry. So a zoo would be a bad place for me even if I were willing to give them my money. Smucky, however, confronted me with the fact that the only place I was going to see a kangaroo while in Australia was in a zoo. This despite the fact that nearly every Australian I talked to spent about 15 minutes telling me what a horrible problem all the rampant kangaroos are and how they need to be culled (“culled” here is a euphemism for “killed”). And also despite the story Smucky told me last year about the night he and his friends were at a beach house (not Smucky’s family’s in Mollymook) when they heard what they thought was a burglar on the front porch, only to be very surprised to find themselves face to face with a prowling kangaroo when they opened the door. So you’d think I’d be bumping into them everywhere!

But I guess I can’t realistically expect to find kangaroos hopping around the streets of Sydney. Smuck suggested we visit Koala Park, where I could not only see but pet a kangaroo, instead of a regular zoo. I liked that Koala Park doesn’t have any non-native animals, so the animals are in their normal environment. And I liked that they do koala rescue. And I liked that some of the animals – including all of the koalas – are allowed to roam the entire park at their will: none of the koalas are kept in cages. So I agreed to go. I’ll be honest though: I was a bit torn about this. I still have major issues with even a place like Koala Park. Some of the animals were in cages. And even the animals that weren’t are still kept within the confines of the park (although the koalas could probably escape through the tree tops if they wanted, though I doubt it’d be a good idea on their part). And although I confess I really did want to pat a koala pretty badly, I do not agree with humans patting koalas for kicks. So it is with some amount of guilt and a large feeling of hypocrisy that I present these photos. I am glad I had a chance to interact with a koala and some kangaroos, but at the same time, I think it is wrong. I’m planning to donate some money to an Australian animal welfare site to help offset my sin, though I also don’t think that throwing money at your wrongs is the answer either.

But on with the photos! One of the first animals we saw as the wombat. I thought wombats were much smaller than this!

We also saw a wallaby, which looks like a small kangaroo:

Smucky’s been trying to tell me for years that they have penguins in Australia, which I thought was crazy talk. “You mean Antartica,” I’d say. “No, they are Australian,” he’d insist. Turns out he wasn’t lying! These are called “little penguins” and apparently Tux the Linux mascot is in fact an Australian penguin.

Smucky had also been warning me about the cassowary for quite some time. He described it as “prehistoric-looking and very scary”. He got the prehistoric-looking part right, but I thought he was a pretty charming guy!

Probably my least favorite part of Koala Park was the dingo cage. I didn’t feel the dingos had nearly enough room, especially as they were all very frisky. I thought they were quite cute and looked friendly, although you have no idea how many times I heard “the dingo got your baby” when I was near their cage. One of the park employees had a big jeep in the cage at one point as he was doing some yard work or something and the dingos were all running around and jumping on it and all over it. I felt very sad that these poor animals were contained the way they were.

Echnidas look like large hedgehogs with anteater snouts and they waddle around in a most delightful manner.

As we were walking by, this little guy started shouting demands our way! “Got a cracker? Got a cracker?” he kept repeating, until Luke gave him some leftover ‘roo food to shut him up.

Smucky said that the emus were usually allowed to roam freely in the kangaroo petting area, but they were behind bars the day we were there, which seemed just as well with Smucky who finds them a little nerve-wracking. Since they were in a cage, I was unable to recreate my family’s famous “Carol Amongst Emus” photo: a shot of my mom surrounded by emus at the Catoctin Petting Zoo, which we visited when I was young. Maybe mum will post it for you when she sees this post.

Pig managed to get in on some emu action, however.

Now the part you’ve all been waiting for, maybe….the koalas! The park has 3 koala feeding times during which visitors can pat – if they are lucky – a koala. Koalas are nocturnal animals and as they are given free range of the park, most of them were actually asleep high in the trees above our heads and invisible to us, however, they select a few to hang out in an enclosure during feeding time. Here are some of the sleepyheads:

The park employee selects one koala to wake up and feed, although visitors are told that if the koala hops down and runs off or if he climbs back up in the tree, they are not to follow him or try to pat him. You’re only allowed to pat him if he feels like cooperating. Fortunately, our koala decided an extra serving of eucalyptus was worth being manhandled by about 20 children and tourists.

Koalas sure love eucalyptus. It’s the only food they consume, and their only source of water. We were told if you want to give a koala a treat, you give him more eucalyptus.

He was so soft! His fur isn’t silky like a cat, rather more fluffy like a sheep, but oh my god, he seems so cuddly! I just wanted to hug him and ran off with him!

I mean, who can resist this face?!

Next it was time for the kangaroos. They are in a large gated area into which you can freely walk, and you can purchase kangaroo food to hand-feed them. Kangaroo food appears to be Cheerios. Not sure how natural that is.

What I found very interesting was there were no employees in the kangaroo enclosure, so they must really trust both their kangaroos and the visitors! I’d think in America they’d be so worried someone would get bitten and sue that someone would be on-hand at all times to supervise, but this place was very laid back. You just wander in and start patting ‘roos.

Having watched a lot of Bugs Bunny cartoons as a kid, I was under the impression that all kangaroos bounce up and down constantly and box people. Turns out they are pretty lazy.

(I gave this one a lot of food for being such a good sport about Pig’s antics.)

A few did get up and hop around a bit.

But probably the best one was the mum and joey. Awwww!

And that was the last day of my trip! The following morning Luke and I began our 30-hour journey back home (which oddly ended just 5 hours after it began…) I have to give a shout-out to Qantas. I was very worried that the 14-hour flights to and from Sydney were going to be utter hell, and that I’d start to feel confined and that they’d mess up my meals and I wouldn’t be able to eat…and if I don’t eat every few hours, I get nasty. Qantas, however, is the ONLY airline that has managed to serve me an entirely vegan meal every time. British Airways usually does okay, but always manages to give me butter or non-vegan salad dressing. All four meals Qantas served were entirely vegan and actually edible! And I got served first! And booze was free! Plus I took a sleeping pill that knocked me out for almost the whole trip. Though it was two and a half times longer than the United flights to and from DC, the Qantas Sydney flights were actually much better. Which is great because I definitely plan to visit Australia again!

Funny story about coming home, though: since we switched airlines in LAX, Luke and I had to collect our luggage there and turn it back in for our next flight. As we are waiting for our bags to come out, a TSA employee with a sniffer dog approached us. The dog was all over my carry-on bag. “Do you have any fruit in your bag?” The TSA guy asked me. “No,” I replied, then, “oh, wait, I have a fruit cup!” I had purchased a fruit cup in the Sydney airport to eat on the plane, but then Qantas served me fruit and I never ate it. The TSA guy inspected my fruit cup, returned it, marked something on my landing card, and went away. Five minutes later the dog returns and is all over my bag again. “Do you have fruit in your bag?” the guy asked me again. “Uh, the same fruit I had last time,” I said. It seems he had forgotten he’d already found my illicit fruit. After I went through Customs, because I was branded a fruit smuggler, I had to go through extra security, whereupon my fruit cup was confiscated and I was reprimanded. WHO KNEW THEY HAD FRUIT-SNIFFING DOGS AT LAX? THEN they threw away the bottle of water I ALSO forgot I had. Frankly, I can see the fruit thing, sort of, but these liquid restrictions are really getting on my nerves. I’m pretty sure it’s just a way to increase bottled water sales in airports.

Once your favorite fruit smuggler was allowed on the United flight, we were delayed for FOUR HOURS – on the plane – for various mechanical and missing-pilot reasons. The final hour was because – and I’m not making this up – the IT department at LAX could not fix a broken printer and the pilot wasn’t allowed to take off until they had a printed copy of the repair documents. I happened to be seated behind Michael Chertoff, the ex-secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I never would have recognized him, but Luke did. I kicked him. It was an accident but I didn’t feel bad about it. Take that, Homeland Security!


  1. Jes Said,

    March 11, 2009 @ 8:11 pm

    A broken printer? Really, really? Eesh. I’m pretty amazed at the fruit-sniffing dogs. My question would have been “do you have a koala in your bag, ma’am?” 🙂 Such cute pictures! Really sad about the dingos, but at least you got to see some wildlife.

  2. renae Said,

    March 11, 2009 @ 8:38 pm

    Smuck’s friend has a plan for smuggling a koala into the States, which I plan to try next time: travel with a little girl and just wrap the arms of one of those sleepy koalas around her neck so the koala looks like those animal backpacks children have. I’ll just take my niece next time and use her as a koala-smuggling device!

  3. Mandee Said,

    March 11, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

    Well I am loved you liked Australia and I too have issues with zoos and even places like Koala Park.

    And I, unlike the ppl you spoke to, am not ok with kangaroos being culled. There was a protest last year but the cull went ahead anyway 🙁

  4. Mandee Said,

    March 11, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

    Oops, I can’t type today, I meant to say

    Well I am glad you liked Australia and I too have issues with zoos and even places like Koala Park.

    And I, unlike the ppl you spoke to, am not ok with kangaroos being culled. There was a protest last year but the cull went ahead anyway 🙁

  5. kibbles Said,

    March 11, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

    Oh my you make me laugh so much. Take that homeland security, hah!
    I’m happy you got an opportunity to see some native Australian animals, too bad it was in a zoo. Maybe next time you can take some kind of safari trip in the outback! With wild animals! And kangas that are not as friendly or pet-able! Yeah!

    I love the fruit sniffing dog thing, which I’ve heard about. I don’t know why a CUP of sealed fruit would be confiscated especially since it was from an airline, but I know fresh fruit is never allowed in or out of most countries (or maybe it’s just the US?) because of some type of disease that could affect our crops or something. I dunno, I feel like I’m making this up but I swear I heard it last time I went to Jamaica.

    It’s hard to believe that people in Australia don’t see a problem with keeping dingos in a cage… they’re practically dogs. I’m sure if there was a zoo with a cage full of sad and bored Labradors someone would have a problem! Pfft.

  6. Mom Said,

    March 11, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

    I had a book about Australian animals when I was young, which I found fascinating.

    Me and the Emus – http://picasaweb.google.com/carolmyers0/Renae#5312139117660601666

  7. Jain Said,

    March 12, 2009 @ 3:39 am

    I’m with ya on zoos but wouldn’t leave Australia without seeing koalas and
    ‘roos, either.

    But mostly wanted to thank you for kicking Chertoff.

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