Join our zoo community

Werribee Open Range Zoo A visit to Werribee

Discussion in 'Australia' started by Hix, 13 Nov 2012.

  1. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

    Joined:
    20 Oct 2008
    Posts:
    4,470
    Location:
    Sydney
    I wasn’t expecting to go to Werribee. The plan was to visit Healesville and Moonlight Zoo, and if I had time a couple of hours at Melbourne Zoo too. But I couldn’t get any accommodation in the Pearcedale/Frankston area (because of the Grand Prix) nor the Parkville area (Cox Plate), so I decided it would be more worthwhile to try Werribee as opposed to going home again. The first place I called had room, and was not far from the zoo. So after wandering around Healesville Sanctuary in the morning and early afternoon, I drove to Werribee and on the way the clouds disappeared and the afternoon was nice and sunny. It bode well for the next day.

    The next morning was even more overcast than the previous one, and looked like it would rain for the whole day. I drove to the zoo and got there at opening time. The girl at the desk booked me for the first bus ride at 10:00, so I had an hour to wander through the walking areas.
    First up was the enormous island (well, moated enclosure, but it looks like an island) housing the gorillas. But they weren’t on display yet, a keeper was still walking around in the exhibit. After photographing some birds in the moat (Superb Blue Wren, Coots and chicks, grebe, and an LBJ) I moved on.

    The next exhibit, the Vervets, was also empty. There was a sign in front of the viewing window stating the vervets would not be on display today due to renovations to the exhibit.

    Next up was the crocodiles, but I couldn’t even find their exhibit. I’ve now realised they were housed in the Tourist Centre in the African Village. It was closed when I got there too.

    The African Wild Dogs were next. They have a very large enclosure, ideal for this species. And although the dogs were on display, they were right down the back of their enclosure asleep. I could barely see them in the distance. But a nice enclosure, and dual-level viewing.

    Next to the viewing area is a meerkat exhibit – a typical pit type enclosure with a mound in the middle covered in sand and rock. The back wall was concrete and meant to look like a rock wall. Unimaginitive compared to the great exhibit displaying Meerkats beside the restaurant. Maybe this one houses surplus. I continued on.

    The lions were sitting at the back of their exhibit, but by going to the back/top of the seated area I could see them clearly. On my previous visit the lions had been near the glass and I hadn’t gone up here, but now I could see what the back of the enclosure looked like (a steep moat with high fence) and the savanna enclosure behind – kudu and waterbuck were watching the lions intently. One of the lions seemed to be keeping an eye on the antelope, but the others ignored them altogether.

    Backtracking a little I came to the Hippo enclosure. Hippos were asleep too. Looking at the clouds I kinda wished I was back in bed asleep too. I photographed a couple of Black-fronted dotterels that were hanging round the exhibit and then headed back to the gorillas, as it was approaching 10:00 and I didn’t want to miss the bus.

    The gorillas were out on display, and slowly moving around, picking up enrichment food items. Three males in an enormous enclosure, and they seemed to be ignoring each other. Heading around the back of the enclosure I came upon the glass viewing area and the interp materials – photos, family tree, recordings, signage etc. There was also a beaten up old truck (like what you would see in a movie set in Africa) designed to be a viewing platform – it wasn’t that great for viewing, but I imagine kids love playing on it. Motaba was sitting down contemplating his fingernail – I presume he’d been picking boogers – and the other two were slowly wandering round the exhibit looking for titbits.

    I arrived at the Bus just at 10:00, just before loading. Although it was pretty full I was lucky and had a seat all to myself. This meant i could slide from one side of the bus to the other to photograph things out the window on both sides of the bus.

    Scimitar-horned Oryx, Przewalski Horses, Dromedarys (including a six week old calf), Hippos, Giraffe, White Rhinos, Zebra, Addax, Eland, Waterbuck, Greater Kudu and a female Sable Antelope (I didn’t know there were any in Australia). Nice big enclosures for the animals, nothing spectacularly different from enclosures in similar open range zoos, but the public loved it. The bus driver was fairly knowledgeable, which is a pleasant trend I’ve been noticing of late – I half expected to hear urban myths and factual errors but he seemed to know what he was talking about. He correctly identified four raptors flying over the zoo as Whistling Kites, and told some interesting keeper stories about the addax; apparently they are quite aggressive towards the keepers, especially when veterinary procedures are being performed.

    The bus ride lasted about 50-55 minutes. I went back to the gorilla viewing area but the gorillas were nowhere to be seen. A sign said that sometime between 11:00 and 2:00 the gorillas would be off-display for half-an-hour, so i guess this was that time. The cheetah enclosure just next to the gorillas had a cheetah lying down, again at the back of the enclosure.

    Looking at the map I realised that I had seen pretty much all the animal exhibits. Apart from the drive-through enclosures on the bus ride and the two walking trails I had yet to do, the only animal exhibits were for Gorillas, Vervets, Wild Dogs, Meerkats, Lions, Hippos and Cheetahs.

    I ventured into the area that was formerly the Australian Walkabout but has been renamed the “Volcanic Plains Trail” and although I spent probably 30 minutes in here, all I saw was some emus, a lone grey kangaroo, and some wild native birds (Superb Blue Wren, Chestnut Ducks, Willie Wagtail and Magpie Lark). A large part of this area has been planted with native grasses as part of a research experiment to investigate the possibility of reclaiming Victorian grasslands by direct seeding.

    After grabbing something to eat I went to the last trail, the “Wetlands Wirribi Yaluk Trail” which included a Watersmart Garden and a woolshed. The end of the trail was at a lookout over the Werribee River.

    For something called the Wetland Trail, the first couple of hundred metres seemed the opposite – open, exposed grassed area with a trail leading to the Watersmart Garden. Along the way I passed the Slumber Safari accommodation (which costs $600 a night), the tents overlook a fenced field where Eastern Barred Bandicoots have been released.

    The Watersmart Garden is built around a very old (apparently abandoned) cottage, and is planted out with what appears to be a wide range of exotic plants that can cope with little or no water. Some of them might have been obscure natives, but I didn’t recognise any of them. The only natives I saw were two large Eucalypts growing outside the garden but shading the cottage. Realising there were no native plants I was about to leave when I noticed a swallow fledgling. Looking around I found a couple of swallow nests under the eaves with at least seven chicks between them. Five of the chicks had left the nest and I was able to take some photos of them. While doing this I also saw some Purple-crowned Lorikeets and White-plumed Honeyeaters feeding on the Eucalypt blooms.

    It was about 12:00, and I wanted to get moving. I decided not to go Melbourne Zoo – every time I had visited in the past it had been raining, and I wanted to see the zoo on a sunny day to take some decent photos. So wouldn’t go this afternoon, I would head straight back home to Sydney – an eight hour drive. I left the Watersmart Garden and headed back to the exit without visiting the woolshed or seeing the Werribee River. I did pop into the giftshop, usually an exciting part of any zoo visit, but found little there to excite me. Of the fifty or sixty books on display only three were for adults: I already owned one of them, and the other two weren’t of interest to me. Most of the souvenirs were kids toys, but I did buy a glass figurine of a lion blown from recycled glass and made in Swaziland.

    Getting back into my car I saw a brochure I had picked up that morning in the reception area of my hotel. It was for Serendip Sanctuary, a place I had never heard of. It was at Lara (a town I had never heard of) and had free admission. The rough map on the brochure suggested it was south of Werribee on the way to Geelong, but not knowing the area I had no idea exactly where. I input the address into my GPS and it estimated a travel time of 25 minutes. That was tempting and I figured a quick look wouldn’t hurt so I impulsively started heading in that direction. Just after I got onto the Freeway the sun came out with a vengeance and remained out for the rest of the day, getting quite hot. By this time I was committed to Serendip and turning around and heading to Melbourne Zoo would have been pointless.

    And what was a spur-of-the-moment impulse turned out to be a good decision and a very pleasant – and sunny - afternoon.

    Photos and review of Serendip Sanctuary to come shortly.

    :p

    Hix
     
  2. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    1 Mar 2011
    Posts:
    4,710
    Location:
    Melbourne, VIC, Australia
    Great review as always.

    Have you posted any pics yet? What's an LBJ?

    Did you think that Werribee Zoo was value for money given that the entry fee is about the same for Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary?
     
  3. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    12 Aug 2008
    Posts:
    4,507
    Location:
    California, USA
    LBJ = little brown jobbie = birder speak for "I don't know what that @#$%! bird is"

    I really enjoyed your review Hix. It sounds like the Melbourne area has a complex of really good zoos. The only places that I can think of with that kind of arrangement in the U.S. are San Diego with the zoo and wild animal park and the Bronx Zoo which also operates the New York Aquarium and several smaller zoos.

    I am remembering correctly that Monarto had a herd of African elephants at one time, or was that Sydney's safari zoo? If it was Monarto, then what happened to them?

    Thanks for your reviews.
     
  4. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2010
    Posts:
    4,798
    Location:
    Melbourne, Aust (ex. NZ)
    Sounds like the more unusual antelope species (kudu, sable) and the wild birds might have been the highlights Hix?

    Am I correct in assuming that Werribee has no aviaries, and the only captive birds are Emu? It seems to me that they could bulk up their collection by adding some common large species to the Australian section - Dingo, Kangaroos, Wallabies, Geese/Swans spring to mind. They could also add ostrich to the Savannah, but overall they have a pretty decent African collection. Are there any other plans for Werribee?
     
  5. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    1 Mar 2011
    Posts:
    4,710
    Location:
    Melbourne, VIC, Australia
    Cheers for that David. If he posts the pic of the LBJ, we can have a go at identifying it.

    zooboy28, Werribee has an aviary, but for domestic chickens. :D The last time I was there, the wild House Sparrows were eating the chickens' food. They also have 2 African grey parrots off-display, but any school groups going to the classrooms can see them, along with the off-display tawny frogmouths.

    The kudus are all female, so they aren't as impressive as a male with his big horns. I don't know if they have a male at all, but he definitely is not on display.
     
  6. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2010
    Posts:
    4,798
    Location:
    Melbourne, Aust (ex. NZ)
    Presumably that was in the African Village? Why are the crocodiles (species?) in there and not in the Wetland trail?

    A big African aviary would be an excellent addition I think, with African Greys and a large Lovebird colony for example (not sure if they can be mixed), and maybe another one for finches.
     
  7. PAT

    PAT Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 Jan 2008
    Posts:
    1,552
    Location:
    Victoria
    There are a few others around. I think a pair of brolgas also live in the grassland exhibit and there is a small flock of ostriches in the main savannah (I've not been in a while so this could have changed).

    I agree that a lot could be done to bolster the number of birds. Egyptian geese and guinea-fowls would make nice free range additions. Adelaide Zoo has a nice Arfican grasslands aviary full of finches that could be replicated at Werribee as well.
     
  8. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

    Joined:
    20 Oct 2008
    Posts:
    4,470
    Location:
    Sydney

    Posted the pics a week ago. Here is the LBJ:
    http://www.zoochat.com/78/lbj-296427/
    I expected Chlidonias to have IDed it for me by now. I think it might be a reed-warbler, but it just doesn't look right.
    Can't say, as I didn't pay. Don't know what their admission price is. But if i had to go back to either Werrribee or Healesville tomorrow, I'd pick Healesville. Easy choice.

    Western Plains Zoo outside Sydney (well, 5 hours drive outside Sydney), now known as Taronga Western Plains Zoo. They still have at least one African I believe, i think they had some deaths recently. I'll be there on Friday/Saturday so I can confirm that then.

    I forgot about the ostriches, there were three in the savanna that I saw. They even had some old eggs they had placed beside the road in a fake nest so people could see what they looked like.

    The wild birds probably held my attention for as long as the exhibits did, but having been there before it just wasn't all that exciting. If the gorilla enclosure was more thickly vegetated - it just looks sparse right now - and if there were more gorillas, or perhaps a family with juveniles playing and running, it would be more interesting.

    A large walkthrough aviary with birds would be a great addition. Even if it was just Australian Birds, it would be something else to do. Did I mention the drum-playing monkeys? They sing songs too. Didn't hold my attention, but the kids loved it. there might have been a conservation message cleverly hidden in their banter too.

    The Volcanic Plains walk might have more macropods hiding in the long grass or under bushes away from the path, but if I couldn't see them then the public certainly won't either. I sat at the bird hide for ten minutes and only saw a couple of chestnut teal for a minute or two.

    :p

    Hix
     
  9. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,958
    Location:
    the world of tomorrow
    that might have been when I was in Fiordland. If one is away from Zoochat for more than a few days then too many photo uploads get missed because the "new" category only goes up to 500 photos I think it is; and the gallery stats don't get updated so one cannot see if new photos have been uploaded by looking down the countries.

    Anyway, I would look at it but for most of today for some reason all I get on photos is a red x and I can't open any of them.
     
  10. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,958
    Location:
    the world of tomorrow
    my photo-viewing issues are resolved. I looks to be a reed warbler to me.
     
  11. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    1 Mar 2011
    Posts:
    4,710
    Location:
    Melbourne, VIC, Australia
    There is supposed to be an Egyptian goose that roams freely. The free-roaming guinea fowl (about a dozen) were all killed in one night by (presumably) a fox. But yeah, a walk-through aviary of African birds would be great. To even get the African grey parrots on display would be superb.

    The crocodiles are freshwater crocs, and they are still babies, so they are still in the aquarium.

    Hix, I think the entry fee for all zoos is about $26 for adults.

    I think I started a new thread a few months ago asking what African animals were already in zoos in Australia and could be candidates for being displayed at Werribee. The zoo has so much space that it is easy for visitors to comment on there being so few species. It would be fantastic for them to get some more. I heard that nyala might be on the cards, but another antelope is about as exciting as a sable.
     
  12. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    1 Mar 2011
    Posts:
    4,710
    Location:
    Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  13. Jarkari

    Jarkari Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    24 Aug 2006
    Posts:
    1,525
    Location:
    Orange, NSW
    There were two Africans and three asians when i started at dubbo 5 years ago. Now there is one African and Two Asians remaining.
     
  14. PAT

    PAT Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 Jan 2008
    Posts:
    1,552
    Location:
    Victoria
    Do you think Dubbo would be the most likely location for Taronga and Melbourne's bull calves to end up at? Do they have the facilities to hold multiple adult bulls in the future.

    And thanks for the info about the geese and guinea-fowls Nanoboy. Imagine if birds could be imported and Werribee could be home to flamingos, crowned cranes, saddle-bill storks, and all sorts of other large African birds.
     
  15. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

    Joined:
    20 Oct 2008
    Posts:
    4,470
    Location:
    Sydney

    That drive-through would look fantastic if there was those birds there too. And marabous.

    But I think they really need more mammals. Not more species (although that would be good) but a large herd. The enclosure is mostly empty, but would look fantastic if there was a herd of 50 zebra, or eland, or giraffe etc. At present I think they have about a dozen eland, eight giraffe and half-a-dozen or less of the other species (these figures are just guesstimates).

    :p

    Hix
     
  16. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    1 Mar 2011
    Posts:
    4,710
    Location:
    Melbourne, VIC, Australia
    Yeah, I remember the guide saying that the lower savannah was 1.5 times the size of Melbourne Zoo. So lots of land for about 20 animals.