Opened in 1970, Australia Zoo had humble beginnings as the small ‘Beerwah Reptile Park’ in the highway town of Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast (around an hour from Brisbane). With reptiles quickly becoming their main specialty, the park grew in size and popularity. The 1990s and 2000s marked a major period of redevelopment and the rebrand into the current ‘Australia Zoo’, with the construction of areas like the Crocoseum stadium, Tiger Temple, and in more recent times, Africa and Bindi’s Island. Prior to this visit in June 2019, I had visited Australia Zoo twice (2014 and 2018), however I have very little recollection of 2014’s visit (except for seeing an Andean condor in the bird show). I had mixed feelings during my visit in 2018, and felt the zoo was largely overrated and commercialized. However, that was to be expected, and the zoo had some quality enclosures and a solid collection of species (especially reptiles). This walkthrough of yesterday's visit should hopefully provide some insight into Australia’s Zoo current layout, enclosures and animal collection. The zoo itself is quite large and the zoo’s map divides Australia Zoo into four main sections with colours; pink (first half of the zoo including Crocoseum), yellow (wetlands area and ‘Roo Heaven’), purple (walkthrough areas, bird aviary, reptile house and wombats) and orange (Tiger Temple, Bindi’s Island and Africa). https://www.australiazoo.com.au/visit-us/map/AZ_MAP_2019.pdf The zoo’s wood-paneled entrance features images of the Irwin family, animal experiences and a large photograph of Steve Irwin. The entrance was renovated a few years ago and is now quite grand and modern. Entrance by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:38 PM Past the ticket booths and the first of many gift shops, the first animals seen were part of the zoo’s ‘wandering wildlife’. These animals are taken out by keepers to meet the public up close (up-close animal experiences have a strong emphasis across the zoo). The animals seen near the front of the entrance, included a Laughing Kookaburra, a Wedge-tailed Eagle, a Koala and a Shingleback. Visitors were able to pat the Koala and the Shingleback (these lizards are a lot smoother than I expected). Shingleback (Tiliqua rugosa) by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:37 PM The first actual animal enclosures were a pair of glass-fronted enclosures for Rhinoceros Iguana. The first enclosure had two females and the second enclosure had a large male. These enclosures had large Pandanus trees, and rock boulders, which the lizards used as vantage points/sunning areas. They also had a small indoor area with heating. Near the rhino iguanas, were three American Alligator enclosures that were simple in design. These enclosures are some of the oldest in the zoo. The next enclosure I saw, was a large glass-fronted enclosure with a heated den for a female Komodo Dragon. This lizard had a very generously-sized area, which used to house several other dragons (which I believe have since passed on). Next to the Komodo dragon, was another glass-fronted enclosure with Perentie. This enclosure was well-landscaped and had a series of large rocks, boulders and hiding spaces. The final lizard enclosure (and probably my favourite in the area), was a mixed native reptile enclosure. Since my last visit, this mock-rock enclosure has had a few new species added and the signage had been updated. The species signed in this enclosure were; Mary River Turtle, Land Mullet, Cunningham’s Skink, Merten’s Water Monitor, Water Dragon, Eastern Blue Tongue and Eastern Bearded Dragon. Style of New Signage by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:36 PM This area also had an enclosure for a pair of Asian Small-clawed Otters. The otters had a shallow pool, large logs and high vantage points. Past the otters and down a ramp, was a small, low-fenced enclosure for a pair of very active Short-beaked Echidnas. I returned later in the day to their enclosure and found them slurping up their food. Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:26 PM Beyond this first section was a grassed paddock with a heated den, for two Aldabran Tortoises. Opposite the tortoises was a shaded enclosure with a large body of water, with no sign of inhabitants. The map indicates that Australian turtles reside there, however there was only signage for Eastern Water Dragon (presumably wild ones). This would make a nice enclosure for Irwin’s Turtle Elseya irwini, I am surprised the zoo doesn’t have any, at least on public display. The next area features the zoo’s large crocodilian collection which includes Saltwater Crocodile, Freshwater Crocodile and American Alligator. These enclosures are all quite similar; chain-linked enclosures, palm trees and well-sized pools. Interestingly, the zoo is renovating the main crocodile enclosures for the 50th anniversary of Australia Zoo’s opening in 2020. Crocodile Enclosure Renovation by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:36 PM This area also contained ‘The Laughing Frog Water Park and Lolly Shop’ which was a bit of an eyesore to be honest. Near the water park, there was an enclosure with a lot of mock rock for their elderly Binturong. This enclosure had a mock-rock wall with lush vegetation, glass viewing and a lot of climbing opportunities. The binturong (brother and sister) were surprisingly active on my visit. I accidentally skipped the Southern Cassowary, Dingo and Tasmanian Devil enclosures, but I recall on previous visits that they were all nicely-done, particularly the very lush cassowary enclosures. The Laughing Frog Water Park by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:35 PM Binturong Enclosure by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:33 PM Near the Crocoseum, was a standard Koala enclosure with a ramp from which visitors viewed the koalas. The Crocoseum itself had two large tanks for a pair of large Burmese Python (one albino, one normal) and a Reticulated Python. The Crocoseum is two-stories, and has areas for animal photos, an information desk, a café, giftshops, a Crocodile Hunter museum and a 5000-seat stadium for the Wildlife Warriors Show at midday. This show was nicely-done (especially the Free-flight Bird Show), however at times the presenter commentary was really quite tacky and corny. The show began with a Blue and Gold Macaw and a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, placing a piece of rubbish in the bin, advising visitors not to litter. Afterwards, around seven macaws did laps around the stadium (Green-winged Macaws, Blue and Gold Macaws). After the macaws, a few Boa Constrictors were brought out, and a snakebite first aid demonstration was held. Up next were the water birds. A Black-necked Stork flew in and waded for fish, then a Little Pied Cormorant and Great Cormorant followed. Usually there is a raptor (Whistling Kite, Condor etc.) in the show, but there wasn’t any during my visit. The finale was a large group of parrots, vibrant in colour and sound (Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Major Mitchell Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrot, Rainbow Lorikeet, Red-collared Lorikeet). Finally, a large male Saltwater Crocodile swam out and was hand fed, much to the amazement of the crowd. Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:33 PM After the show, I headed towards ‘Roo Heaven’ a large walkthrough enclosure with several species of macropods. Unlike previous visits, I decided to have a thorough look of the entire section, and found the following species; Red Kangaroo, Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Swamp Wallaby and Red-necked Wallaby. This walkthrough is of a very generous size and also has a very large rock mound with the walkthrough’s most exciting inhabitants, Black-footed Rock Wallaby. Black-footed Rock Wallaby (Petrogale lateralis) by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:28 PM It took a good ten minutes to locate them on such a large rock. Although they were quite far away and viewing was limited, it was excellent to see that they actually exist! Underneath the rock mound, was the main enclosure for Short-beaked Echidna. In the echidna enclosure there was an echidna experience with some visitors, and the echidna was very active. It was great to see how actually long their tongues are! Tongue of Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:27 PM Past this area, was the forested wetlands area. These enclosures were all very generous and spacious in size, with dense vegetation. There were large enclosures for Brolga, Black-necked Stork and Emu. There were many wild bird species around, and the wetlands area was quite tranquil and quiet in comparison to the other sections of the zoo. A walkthrough koala enclosure was next and had shaded areas for the koalas and was heavily planted with native trees and shrubs. Visitors were able to pat the koalas under strict supervision. With such heavily-planted native vegetation and ground cover, it would be great to see a ground-dwelling species like bettong in this enclosure. The next enclosure was a Red Kangaroo walkthough, which was a lush paddock with macadamia trees. The bird life was abundant in this enclosure. I was much more focused on the flitting robins and scarlet honeyeaters darting from tree to tree, than the kangaroos. Wild Eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis) by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:31 PM Past the kangaroos, was a large aviary for a Wedge-tailed Eagle and the Rainforest Aviary. The Rainforest Aviary was a medium-sized walkthrough aviary with a good mix of species. The main group of birds seen were pigeons, especially Emerald Dove and Bar-shouldered Dove. Other pigeon species included Peaceful Dove, White-headed Pigeon, Pied Imperial Pigeon and Wonga Pigeon. This aviary also had a good mix of other bird species; Glossy Ibis, Rajah Shelduck, Magpie Goose, Bush Stone Curlew and Eclectus Parrot (which I confirmed with the education department that they were the Australian subspecies macgillivrayi). I am positive there were other species in the aviary that I didn’t manage to see. The next set of enclosures were for the wombats. In the first enclosure I saw no less than five wombats (three Common Wombat and two Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat). I had no idea that the wombat species were mixed in the same enclosure. During my visit, the wombats had access to their sleeping dens. The wombats were feeding at the time of my visit and one of the hairy-nosed wombats got too close to a common wombat’s bowl of food. The common wombat started to hiss harshly and chase off the hairy-nosed wombat. It was all a bit surreal… hissing, running wombats. Wombat Species Comparison - Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) and Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus) by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:30 PM There was another enclosure nearby of a similarly large size, with only one Common Wombat seen. Continuing along the path, the Reptile House was next. This area used to exclusively hold Australian snakes, however a lot of the tanks now house exotic reptiles. The tanks themselves were of varying quality, however the majority seemed adequate (a few were on the small size). The following species were seen (some nice elapid species) ; Gila Monster, Veiled Chameleon, Western Brown Snake, King Brown, Black Tiger Snake, Eastern Tiger Snake, Eastern Brown Snake, Death Adder, Coastal Taipan, Inland Taipan, Australian Scrub Python, Fijian Crested Iguana and Star Tortoise (these two species were mixed), Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Woma Python, Green Tree Python and a massive King Cobra. Reptile House by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:28 PM The next area of the zoo was the small Asian section, which comprised of two species. The first mock-rock enclosure held a hyperactive Red Panda. The red panda had many trees and branches to climb and was able to hide away from public view. The Tiger Temple was next and had three main sections/enclosures that could be opened or closed to make one main enclosure, or three separate enclosures. The middle area featured a large pool with underwater viewing. The entire area was densely planted with bamboo and was heavily themed. Three Sumatran tigers were on display with their keepers. Bindi’s Island was next and this section held an assortment of different species, including free-range Ring-tailed Lemur. Before entering the main island there was another smaller island for more Ring-tailed Lemur. With lemurs on both islands, the zoo must have something like 15+ ring-tailed lemurs. On the main island, there was an enclosure for a pair of Aldabran Tortoises and an open-topped enclosure for a Blue and Gold Macaw and a Scarlet Macaw. There also was a large tree-house on the island which had two additional tanks for Red-eared Slider, Banded Rainbowfish and Crimson-spotted Rainbowfish, and Boa Constrictor. The final area was the African section. This area was heavily planted with aloes and other succulents, and began with a large exhibit for Giraffe (seven individuals including two calves), Zebra (two males) and Southern White Rhino (two individuals with a calf). The plants and trees in this area have grown quite significantly since I visited a year ago. I also briefly saw a Cheetah, being led on a lead. African Exhibit by WhistlingKite24 posted 29 Jun 2019 at 3:32 PM The final part of the African section were a pair of glass-fronted, rocky enclosures for Meerkats. This area was very busy, not just because of the popularity of the meerkats, but also due to the fact that the Irwin family were feeding them. They seem to have around ten meerkats in two different groups. The meerkats are able to view the entire African exhibit from their enclosure. All in all, Australia Zoo has the basis for an excellent zoo, and needs to build upon and ‘fill in the gaps’, on what is already there. Many of the enclosures and areas are done to a very high standard and the range of species available for public viewing (bar maybe exotic mammals) is of a solid diversity. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), Australia Zoo is highly-commercialized (I counted something like ten giftshops/stalls) and is relying heavily off the residual legacy of Steve Irwin. In light of Australia Zoo’s 50th anniversary next year, it is hard to tell what long-term direction the zoo is going in. I can only hope that in the future, it will one of good direction and change. If you get the chance to visit Australia Zoo, it makes for an interesting and very unique experience. I will upload more photos of the animals and enclosures in the coming week or so.