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Darling Downs Zoo A Review of Darling Downs Zoo

Discussion in 'Australia' started by WhistlingKite24, 29 Dec 2018.

  1. WhistlingKite24

    WhistlingKite24 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Location:
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    PART 1: INTRODUCTION AND AUSTRALIAN SECTION


    The Darling Downs Zoo is a regional zoo in country Queensland. Situated around two hours from Brisbane, the zoo is set in a rather scenic and tranquil setting, an ideal place for a zoo. In recent years, the zoo has received widespread attention by Zoochatters in the region, due to its consistent acquisition and breeding of new species. There is always something exciting or unexpected at DDZ.

    This is my third visit to Darling Downs Zoo (the first in 2011 and my second in early 2018), and I have seen the zoo grow quite significantly since my first visit. The zoo holds a growing collection of species, some now quite rare in the region (i.e. Brazilian Tapir -two out of six individuals, Pygmy Hippopotamus- one out of five individuals etc.). The zoo is roughly divided into four geographical sections; Australia, South-east Asia, Africa and South America.

    Once you enter the quaint ticket office/ gift shop, there were a pair of standard tanks for Pygmy Bearded Dragon and Shingleback behind the counter. Visitors have the opportunity to purchase animal food for some of the zoo’s residents (zebra, tapir, deer, ostrich, emu, kangaroo, llama). After paying the admission and receiving a copy of the map, the shaded picnic grounds is the first area you encounter. Past this area, the Australian section commences with a series of cockatoo aviaries. The first of backyard-style aviaries held a pair of Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. According to the signage these birds have been producing offspring since 2003. The next aviary held Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, another species they have bred with much success. The last cockatoo aviary, which is a bit larger had Long-billed Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Galah. Always entertaining birds. Also, there were several wild Red-rumped Parrots dashing through each enclosure, stealing their food and water. These structures have remained the same since 2011.

    The next area was for the waterbirds, and this section was very nicely done (probably the most naturalistic/ lush area of the zoo). I recall it used to be divided for different species (i.e. pelican, swan), but now it has been combined to hold Australian Pelican, Rajah Shelduck and Wandering Whistling Duck. This area also had wild Pacific Black Duck, Australian Wood Duck and Plumed Whistling Duck. Adjacent to the waterbird area, was an enclosure for Koala. This was probably one of the largest koala enclosures I have seen. The enclosure had many shady areas and good ground cover for its ground-dwelling inhabitants. The koala enclosure was also home to a Red Kangaroo joey and Swamp Wallaby joeys- I assume they were being hand raised.

    The next enclosure held Common Wombat, which the zoo have bred on many occasions. This enclosure comprised of a large yard with eucalyptus trees and a concrete den where visitors could find the sleeping wombats. Rufous Bettong was also signed, however they were doing what bettongs do best- pretending to be invisible. Next to the koalas and wombats, was an enclosure for wallabies. There was no sign of any species here. This enclosure used to be home to their now deceased rhea.

    Continuing on this trail was the Emu and Red Kangaroo enclosure. This enclosure had many mature eucalypt trees, and providing the animals with much needed shade. The trio of emus were very eager for food, and would poke their heads out of the fence. This is one of the enclosures that will be gradually expanded, as the zoo has purchased the adjacent land.

    The next exhibit was the Australian Waterbird Aviary. This is a wonderful enclosure for its inhabitants, and has great height. As some of the plants mature and grow, this will evolve into a great exhibit. The following species were seen (there could have been more); Australian Pelican, Royal Spoonbill, Australian Hardhead, Purple Swamphen, Glossy Ibis, White-headed Pigeon, Wonga Pigeon, Topknot Pigeon, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Imperial Pigeon and Masked Plover.

    The final grassy enclosure in this section was for a pair of Cape Barren Geese, who were not very pleased to see me. If I recall correctly this area used to hold their Dingo (no longer part of their collection).

    PART 2 will discuss the South-East Asian section of DDZ.
     
    Last edited: 29 Dec 2018
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  2. WhistlingKite24

    WhistlingKite24 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    PART 2: SOUTH-EAST ASIAN SECTION

    The first enclosure was a rather barren paddock for Red Deer, Blackbuck and Ostrich. This enclosure runs along the entire length of the South-east Asian section. Along with the Red Kangaroo/ Emu enclosure, this enclosure will be expanded in the coming years. This was one of the most popular areas for visitors due to the very tame deer and ostrich.

    The first animals opposite to this paddock were the siamangs. The Siamang lived in a large aviary-style enclosure, with many ropes and climbing opportunities. The trio originally came from Adelaide Zoo in 2017, and are (hopefully) the first of many ape species for the zoo. These three individuals were grooming each other, during the time of my visit.

    Next to the siamang were the Rhesus Macaque (approximately 5 to 7 individuals). The macaques had an adequate enclosure, which hasn’t changed much since my first visit in 2011. A good feature to the enclosure was a wooden panel which enabled the macaques to feed/ rest away from public view. I hope DDZ keeps this wonderfully engaging species in the future.

    The Ruddy Shelducks had two spacious open-topped enclosures. These were very grassy enclosures with pine trees and thick foliage. The zoo had two pairs on display, and have had successful breeding results with this species. The next enclosure was for their Sumatran Tiger. DDZ’s female tiger, ‘Rani’ (2010) came from Melbourne Zoo. Her enclosure was thickly planted with bamboo and undergrowth. The tiger could (and did) completely escape from public view. It was quite a sight seeing a tiger materialise out of nowhere! There was also a few wooden platforms and a small pool for her. The keeper who gave the talk said it was unlikely that their female would ever be chosen to breed. due her well-represented genes.

    The final enclosure in this area was an aviary for a pair of nesting Luzon Bleeding Heart Dove, which was positioned right next to the tiger enclosure.

    PART 3 will discuss the African section of DDZ.
     
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  3. WhistlingKite24

    WhistlingKite24 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    PART 3: AFRICAN SECTION

    The African section begins by walking up a hill to reach a series of enclosures. There were a lot of developments, aiming to soon incorporate more African species in this section of the zoo. Before visitors encountered some of the big drawcard species of Darling Downs Zoo, there was a hilly paddock for a male Guanaco, two female Llama and their offspring (one only a few months old). One of the llamas wasn’t very happy with her keeper and spat on her several times. Glad I kept my distance.

    The first African species encountered were the Cheetah. There was a pair of large chain-linked enclosures for their male and female. The cheetah enclosures also had shaded areas and wooden platforms. The zoo currently holds a female from Western Plains Zoo, and a male imported from Hamerton (UK) in 2017. Introductions have already occurred and apparently the cheetahs responded well to each other. It would be great to have another zoo in Australia breeding cheetah.

    The sloped giraffe paddock housed 1:2 Giraffe (a male from Western Plains Zoo and two sisters from Australia Zoo). The giraffe paddock also held Addax, which the zoo have bred very successfully. There were other female Addax in the off-display area, expected to give birth in the coming days/weeks, according to a keeper. The giraffe house seemed very spacious and offered additional room and privacy. Also, there were Dromedary behind the giraffe enclosure. They could not be viewed directly. There was also two Grant’s Zebra in the off-display area. This entire area (‘Endangered Africa’) is very much in the early stages of development. This is certainly where the most construction is happening and where the future of DDZ lies.

    Down the hill, visitors encounter a large Meerkat enclosure, with many vantage points and dead branches. There was also an indoor room which was locked, with two meerkats. They seemed to be introducing more meerkats with the three individuals outside. Next to this enclosure, was an open topped area for Egyptian Geese. Another lovely species of waterfowl, quite rare in this country.

    Opposite these enclosures was Darling Downs Zoo’s newest addition, a female Pygmy Hippopotamus from Taronga Zoo. She is one of five in the country and the only hippopotamus (of any kind) in Queensland. Her enclosure had a glass-fronted shed with a pool inside, a small outdoor pool and a large area (mainly shaded) for grazing/ resting. The enclosure had a great width and is right next to the dam. Next to the pygmy hippo enclosure was a large wooded paddock for the zoo’s Grant’s Zebra herd and a male Ostrich. The zebra herd has had many successful foals. There was also a shaded yard for Cape Barren Geese, which formerly had surplus Egyptian Geese.

    Opposite to the zebra enclosure were the Tawny Lions and White Lions. These were a bit small for their inhabitants and were looking a bit aged. In the first enclosure there was DDZ’s original white lion pair (‘Shaka’ and ‘Shenzi’), and one of their daughters. The second lion enclosure held another male white lion (the original pair’s first offspring- ‘Kwanza’), and the zoo’s tawny lionesses. There was a small aviary between the lions with Budgerigar, Black-winged Stilt and Luzon Bleeding-heart Dove. I think lovebirds/ African waxbills/ Namaqua doves would be more suitable birds for this aviary, to tie in the African theme.

    The baboon enclosure was adequate, but is now looking a tad small for their growing troop. The Hamadryas Baboon family was very active and were an absolute pleasure to watch. They certainly have some boisterous youngsters, which were quickly put in their place by their mothers and aunties. Both the baboons and lions will benefit with their relocation to the ‘Endangered Africa’ area, up the hill. Construction of the new baboon enclosure is well underway.

    The final enclosure in this African section is for their Serval. This glass-fronted enclosure was well-planted, and offered great hiding opportunities for the serval. It’s always great to see a small cat species have a well-planned enclosure.

    PART 4 will discuss the Southern American section, the remaining Australian enclosures and concluding thoughts.
     
    Last edited: 30 Dec 2018
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  4. WhistlingKite24

    WhistlingKite24 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    PART 4: SOUTH AMERICAN SECTION, THE REMAINING AUSTRALIAN SECTION, CONCLUSION

    There aren’t many zoos in Australia that can boast such an impressive, nor unique collection of Neotropical species as the Darling Downs Zoo.

    This area begins with a large chain-link enclosure for their non-breeding pair of Brazilian Tapir and Patagonian Mara (on my last visit I recorded Capybara -there was no sign of them in this enclosure). This enclosure had a very large shade cloth and pool. Next to this enclosure was a large aviary for some tropical bird species, many of which were busily nesting. The following species were present; Sun Conure, Crimson-winged Parrot, Nicobar Pigeon, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Regent Bowerbird and Black-winged Stilt. Nicobar Pigeon was an unexpected find and are absolutely spectacular birds. Opposite this aviary were a pair of macaw aviaries for Blue and Gold Macaw, the first of their Brazilian Agouti, a lone Capybara and Golden Pheasant. The zoo also holds Scarlet Macaw and Green-winged Macaw, both of species were off-display.

    The following shaded area had three smallish aviaries for more parrots. These contained African Grey Parrots, Blue-crowned Amazon Parrots and Yellow-crowned Amazon Parrots. This area had more foliage and vines that the rest of the zoo, and added to the overall tropical/ lush feel of the area. The capuchin aerial walkway was positioned right behind these aviaries and it really added a great dimension to this South American area. Of course, the following enclosure was for a bachelor group of Black-capped Capuchins.

    Opposite the parrot aviaries and capuchin enclosure was an open-topped enclosure with glass viewing for Rhinoceros Iguana and their first group of Aldabran Giant Tortoise (ten individuals). Next to this enclosure was a small indoor room with four exotic reptile exhibits. These were all well-sized, and contained; Green Iguana, Boa Constrictor, Yellow Anaconda (Australia’s last individual) and the final exhibit had more Aldabran Giant Tortoises, Radiated Tortoises and Spur-thighed Tortoises. Next to this reptile room, was an open-topped enclosure, thickly planted with vines, for a pair of American Alligator.

    Darling Downs Zoo currently holds five out of the six species of callitrichids available in Australia (all are in potential breeding pairs). Their first set of marmoset/ tamarin enclosures were all glass-fronted, very lush and offered several hiding areas for the primates. The following species where held in these three enclosures; Pygmy Marmoset and Noisy Pitta, Cotton-top Tamarin, Banded Lapwing and Bush Stone Curlew, and their family group of Emperor Tamarins. I believe the zoo has done a good job incorporating bird species in these enclosures as substitutes for cracids (virtually non-existent in Australia).

    Past this area was a generously-sized enclosure for their large (probably the biggest group I’ve ever seen) family of Common Marmosets. This enclosure also had Brazilian Agouti – a species specifically imported by Darling Downs Zoo. The final South American species on display were Red-handed Tamarin and more Brazilian Agouti (you can never have too many agouti IMO). These species were in a very large, glass-fronted enclosure. The red-handed tamarins were also exported by Darling Downs Zoo in 2018, and have bred since.

    There were also a few more additional enclosures for mostly native species behind the Red-handed Tamarins. There were three small open topped enclosures with Mandarin Duck and Macquarie Turtle, Freshwater Crocodile and an assortment of lizards (Eastern Bearded Dragon, Central Bearded Dragon, Eastern Bluetongue and Shingleback). An aviary with Eclectus Parrot, Metallic Starling, Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, White-browed Woodswallow and more Black-winged Stilt, was also present in this area.

    The final section of the zoo had a series of backyard-style aviaries for some unusual raptors, owls and bird species. The first aviary had a pair of Boobook Owl, a rescued Barn Owl and a pair of Nankeen Kestrels. Up next where no less than five Eastern Grass Owls (a pair and their three offspring). The pair had the chicks only a few months ago. The next aviary had a female Gang gang Cockatoo (awaiting a male) and a breeding pair of Bush Stone Curlews. The final aviary (much to my surprise), had a pair of Australian Bustard. Such a unique species of bird. This particular aviary also had a pair of Laughing Kookaburra.


    FINAL REMARKS:

    It is very unrealistic and unfair to compare Darling Downs Zoo to a coastal major zoo, with their manicured lawns, extensive media platforms and large advertising campaigns. This zoo has managed to overcome many environmental, geographical and financial hurdles (just look through the early forum pages for the Darling Downs Zoo on Zoochat), and has managed to create a very genuine and sincere zoo and visitor experience.

    Their role in acquiring new species/ holding remnant species for Australia (i.e. Brazilian Tapir, Red-handed Tapir, Yellow Anaconda), and most importantly maintaining species already in the country (i.e. Zebra, Hamadryas Baboon, Aldabran Tortoise, Brazilian Agouti), has proven invaluable. The Darling Downs Zoo has also achieved solid and more regular breeding results than many major zoos and has accomplished a lot since its opening in 2005.

    Darling Downs Zoo is most definitely a quiet achiever with a promising future.
     
    Last edited: 30 Dec 2018
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  5. Zorro

    Zorro Well-Known Member

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    That's a very good and fair review of the DDZ I also believe the zoo has a big future and in time will be one of the counties top zoo collections with many of the new and much needed species bloodlines for quite a lot of species found here in our region also with the added 120 acres will be able to expand with the new African safari exhibit
     
  6. animal_expert01

    animal_expert01 Well-Known Member

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    Great review. It appears the zoo has gained some nice species since I was last there.
     
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  7. Jake

    Jake Well-Known Member

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    I have never heard of a red handed Tapir before ;)
     
  8. WhistlingKite24

    WhistlingKite24 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Don’t you just love autocorrect...
     
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  9. Jake

    Jake Well-Known Member

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    I’m besties with it!!!
     
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  10. Zorro

    Zorro Well-Known Member

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    I always wanted to see a Red Handed Tapir, LOL