today i visited melbourne zoo with a couple of friends, eager to check out what had changed since my last visit over a year ago. firstly, the second stage of the elephant exhibit is having the finishing touches added. already i could see the new small bull barn was complete, with a off-exhibit holding area, and a new bull paddock was all but finished. it features a waterfall with another pool, a thatched hut shade area and of course adds to the overall exhibit space by about a third. it is much what i anticipated. it features gates that can link the exhibit with either of the two other exhibits so the elephants will be able to be rotated without necessarily having to contact one another. of course this is only required IF the zoo recieves more elephants. i spoke with the new elephant keeper and he told me that although bong su, the bull elephant is fertile, unfortunately mek kapah, the female is most definately not. although she is prime breeding age at 31, because the zoo never bred her before her reproductive organs have pretty much shut down. this is a major problem with breeding elephants - if zoos are to breed them it must be done when they are in their early 20's. makes you wonder why auckland's supposedly fertile female is still in new zealand when their are facilities for her here in melbourne. apparently perth zoo has not done tests to see if any of their elephants are reproductively viable as yet. we'll see what happens... fortunately i got a chance to view one of the zoo's two pair of breeding tree goodfelow's kangaroos and their latest offspring. although the "northern neighbours" exhibit featuring the tree-roo's, echidna's and cassowarys is barely a couple of years old it is about to be demolished at he end of the week! the area has intead been earmarked for the new orang-utan exhibit, so that the red apes will be on display at the end of the asian rainforest walk (that already features the tigers, otters, elephants and many birds). meanwhile the impressive tree-kangaroo breeding program will once again be a "behind the scenes" experience for at least a year, until the zoo figures out what to do with them and where to build another new guinea display! the old great ape exhibits that formerly held all the great ape species but now only holds the orangs and a lone silverback gorilla, will be hopefully demolished, though the zoo board (i was told by an unhappy keeper) are toying with the idea of making it a shopping plaza! that's all if the zoo can convince the state that the old pits are of no heratage value. the old elephant exhibit and the old monkey cages are causing the same problem. in fact, i was told that the zoo was being forced to move even more large animals to werribee (the congo buffalo are next and the bison have already left) so as to make any more room for new exhibits. acquiring more of royal park is also out of the question, the zoo cant even demolish any part of the fence - again, it's heratage listed! apparently zoos victoria is considering moving the entire african savannah section to werribee, giraffes and all, so as to focus on more rainforest habitats. whatever is happening there seems be some very odd decisions going on, and i get the impression the keepers feel they are not having much of a say (the question of why their female malayan tapir still had no mate was responded with an eye roll, shrug and "that's what we keep asking?"). one decision that is clearly rediculous no matter how you look at it is the new fennec fox exhibit. when i saw this mock-rock enclosure under construction last year i thought "that is far too small an enclosure for even a lizard let alone a fox and the walls are so low i can't see how they wouldn't be able to jump straight out!!". well, i took this recent opportunity to visit the new fennec exhibit and was supprised to find it empty. when i asked why i was told that they found in summer that the tiny exhibit would get as high as 60 degrees and that the foxes kept jumping out! apparently they are considering putting tortoises in there... other changes included a new additional off-exhibit tiger breeding area, a new entrance (off the australian bush walk) for the great flight aviary and the demolision of one of the ungulate paddocks had begun for the new water treatment centre. i was told yet another re-vamp of the australian section was under way for the commonwealth games, this included demolishing the recently constructed new rock-wallaby exhibit! anyhow, despite my confusion at all this construction-only-to-demolish attitude, i though much of melbourne zoo is looking fantastic. the gardens are spectacular and the rainforest and bush precincts are looking really matured and lush. melbourne zoo is definately redeveloping super-fast, but what they are doing is anyone's guess!!!!???