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Perth Zoo Perth Zoo visits, August 2015

Discussion in 'Australia' started by Hix, 30 Aug 2015.

  1. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I recently had the opportunity to work in our Perth office for a couple of weeks and decided the make the most of my free time there. I took an early flight on a Sunday, arriving at around 10:30 and 15 minutes after checking into my hotel I was on the road to the zoo. The sun was shining when the plane landed, but just after walking through the zoos gates the clouds appeared and started to cover the skies. Thankfully it didn’t rain until that evening when I was back at the hotel (and then it rained almost every day for the time I was there). My second opportunity to visit the zoo was on the day I left – I had booked an afternoon flight which meant I could spend the morning at the zoo to see anything I might have missed the first time. Although it had been pouring overnight the sun was out for the whole time on this second visit.

    The last time I was at Perth Zoo was in 1987, as part of the Australian Society of Zoo Keepers annual conference, and I remember very little of the zoo back then. Looking at my photos from that time there is very little that remains – of both enclosures and species – but after almost thirty years that’s to be expected. The three things I did remember (without looking at my photos) was the old enclosures for hyenas, bears and orangutans; the free-ranging Indian Palm Squirrels; and a very large open lawn area.

    This time I didn’t see any of the old enclosures (in fact brown bears are now gone from the zoo) although there is a display of some very old bear enclosures, grottos, from a long, long time ago. The orangs have a greatly updated complex of enclosures, artificial looking but ideal for the inhabitants. I asked a docent about the Indian Palm Squirrels because I hadn’t seen any and I remember them being bold and very common throughout the zoo – she said they were all gone, she had discussed it recently with a keeper and he hadn’t seen one in more than five years. As for the large open lawn area, it was still there but has shrunk in size as they expanded exhibits and displays. Looking at my old photos I’m guessing it’s about half the size it was in the 80’s.

    Looking at my slides, now gone from the zoo are porcupines, guereza, maned wolves, purple-faced langurs, vervets, siamangs, and some bird species. However, what the zoo now has to offer more than makes up for these absences. (Caveat: parts of the zoo were closed off, including most of the Asian Section, so some of these species might still be present).

    As can be seen from the map, the zoo is roughly divided into three large sections: the Australian Walkabout (which includes the Rainforest Retreat, the Australian Wetlands and the Reptile House),the Asian Rainforest and the African Savanna. These partially encircle the large lawn area I mentioned above, and the other enclosures – like the Nocturnal House, South American primates and birds, Primate islands, cassowary and tree kangaroo - are added adjacent to these areas.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/map-zoo-423420/

    Upon entering the zoo the first thing I came to was the large pond with islands for Ring-tailed Lemurs and White-cheeked Gibbons. I expected to see lots of waterbirds in the water, but only saw a few black ducks, a black swan, a moorhen and a couple of Pelicans. This might be because it’s still Winter – the day I arrived the temperature was only 13ºC (55ºF). In 1987 I took a photo of the Lemur Island when the exhibit was not very old – there has been lots of growth in the plants since then! Walking around the pond you come to a couple of very lush and muddy enclosure for cassowaries, followed by a few equally lush enclosures for Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/gibbon-islands-422229/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/tree-kangaroo-exhibit-422260/

    The African Savanna is a winding path that takes you past several enclosures housing African species like lions, rhinos, giraffes, wild dogs, fennecs, the ubiquitous meerkats, hyenas, zebras, Sacred Baboons and Radiated Tortoises. A narrow path into a cave takes you to a single small exhibit – Madagascan Tree Boa. The whole African Savanna is nicely done, except for this crappy little cave. The only other criticisms I have is that the path is not really wide enough these days – it probably was when the area was built – but on the Sunday afternoon I was there it was rather crowded, and it is one long and winding path, there are no other paths, nowhere to get off if it’s too busy.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/lions-422234/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/sacred-baboon-422249/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/radiated-tortoise-exhibit-422246/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/african-hunting-dog-enclosure-422215/

    At the end of the Savanna is the Nocturnal House. I was quite impressed, in fact it is so long I went back just to count the exhibits – 20 glass-fronted enclosures in total (if you count the last one which leads to an outside aviary). Some large enclosures and a few smaller ones for spiders, insects and geckos. Highlights for me were the Dibbler (a rare and endangered West Australian endemic), Short-eared Rock-wallaby, Common and Red-tailed Phascogales, Western Ringtail Possum and Western Quoll or Chuditch. There were also Fat-tailed Dunnarts, Common Brushtail Possums, Bettongs, Bandicoots, Potoroos, Ghost Bats, Australian Water Rats, Feathertail Gliders, Northern Quoll, Tawny Frogmouth, Southern Boobook, Owlet Nightjar and a few snakes. And I’ve probably forgotten a few species.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/nocturnal-house-interior-422238/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/dibbler-422221/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/dibbler-enclosure-422222/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/short-eared-rock-wallaby-422250/

    The South American Birds are next to the Nocturnal House, but on my first visit it was closed off for construction work, however on my second visit I was able to wander in and I suddenly saw something I recognised but had forgotten all about. One of those forgotten memories that suddenly hits you with a jolt. The aviaries were the same as they were in 1987, although the surrounding trees had grown quite a bit, and I remembered trying to photograph Apostlebirds in one aviary which didn’t work because the sun was on the wire and washed out the image. Back then the aviaries held a variety of Australian birds, but now most have had the dividing walls removed to produce one large cage for a pair of Blue-and-Gold Macaws. Other smaller aviaries housed a pair of Yellow-crowned Amazons, a group of Sun Conures, and a large aviary for Emperor Tamarins.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/south-american-aviaries-423402/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/emperor-tamarins-423403/

    Nearby is a small area with a number of heavily planted wire enclosures for small primates: Cottontop Tamarins, more Emperors, Common and Pygmy Marmosets, Black-capped Capuchins, Ringtailed Lemurs and Squirrel Monkeys. And then the path leads to the Orangs, and the start of the Asian Rainforest.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/pygmy-marmoset-enclosure-422243/

    You can see from the photos what the old orang enclosures looked like, the new ones have less ground area but more aerial space and I imagine the individual enclosures can be linked by ropes to expand the range of the occupants. In each enclosure is a tall metal climbing structure – and some enclosures have as many as three, I counted a total of 19 structures – some of which are linked by ropes, and also provides shelter from the rain and wind. A boardwalk passes by four or five of the enclosures; I’m not really sure how many there were in total as it was a bit hard to count, but I’d guess close to a dozen. Very artificial looking, but ideal for the orangs.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/orang-enclosure-1987-a-30033/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/orangs-423418/

    I didn’t visit the rest of the Asian Rainforest on Day 1, I passed by the Elephants, walked through the Rainforest Retreat and went straight to the Australian Walkabout. When I returned almost two weeks later my intention was to see the rest of the Asian Rainforest but they had dug up the road to upgrade the water system and the whole section was closed off, except the Orangs, Elephants, Sumatran Tigers and Javan Gibbons. The Sumatran Tiger enclosures had low wire roofs, which was a bit of a surprise. But looking back at my old photos I think, 28 years ago, these enclosures housed lions. The Javan Gibbons I could hear calling quite clearly, but couldn’t see them.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/putra-mas-423417/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/sumatran-tiger-423416/

    The Rainforest Retreat is a winding path through a rainforest – no animals, just a variety of rainforest plants. Like much of the zoo, the plant-life was very lush.

    Although I have been through several Australian Walkabouts (and most have been called “Australian Walkabout”) both in Australia and overseas, I was keen to see Perth Zoo’s version as Western Australia has a number of western endemics and I imagined a few of the more diurnal ones would be on display including the numbat. Unfortunately, the numbat was off-display both times due to the construction work (sigh) but luckily I’ve seen numbats before. What I did see here was the usual assortment of macropods, Emus, Dingos, Devils, Koalas, Echidnas and wombats. They also had Western Brush Wallabies (a new species for me), and both species of White-tailed Black Cockatoo. And quokkas, of course.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/western-brush-wallaby-422263/

    Part of the Australian section is a large aviary called Birds of the Southwest. This is a walkthrough aviary displaying birds found in Perth and its outer environs – Stilts, Purple-crowned Lorikeets, Red-capped Parrots, Elegant Parrots, Splendid Fairy-wrens, Brush Bronzewings, Crimson Chats and the like. This is an old aviary – an enormous tree grows in the middle of the aviary and goes straight through the roof which has been modified to accommodate the trunk. I really like this aviary which is quite large, not high but long, and with plenty of birds. But this was not the only good walkthrough aviary.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/walkthrough-aviary-southwest-birds-422255/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/red-capped-parrot-422247/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/elegant-parrot-422225/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/brush-bronzewing-422219/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/purple-crowned-lorikeet-422242/

    Next to the Saltwater Crocodile exhibit is the entrance to the Wetlands Aviary, a walkthrough enclosure traversed by a raised boardwalk and housing Brolgas and Black-necked storks, Glossy Ibis, herons, more stilts (they appear to have several dozen stilts scattered through several aviaries) and a number of duck species including the endangered Freckled Duck. A nicely designed and well displayed aviary, which then leads into the penguin walkthrough aviary.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/wetland-aviary-interior-422266/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/black-necked-stork-423401/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/brolgas-glossy-inis-423406/

    I suspect they are using the same enclosure for penguins now as they did back in 1987, which back then also had Brown Boobies and Pacific Gulls which couldn’t fly. Now the whole thing is covered with mesh, quite high, and instead of boobies and gulls they have a small colony of Bridled Terns.

    The last part of the zoo to see was the Reptile House. It houses mainly Western Australian species, but there are reptiles in other parts of the zoo – some snakes and lizards in the nocturnal house, Madagascan Tree Boa, Radiated and Galapagos Tortoise in the African Savanna, the Saltwater Crocodile in an outdoor enclosure, and in the entrance to the Wetland Aviary are a couple of enclosures - one holding Freshwater Crocodiles and another large display with Merten’s Water Monitors and Painted Turtles. This last display has a glass front allowing you to see both above and below the water and I suspect it may have originally been occupied by the Salty until he was given his bigger outdoor enclosure. There’s also Barramundi and Archerfish in the water (along with some other species – none of the fish were labelled). Nearby are a few smaller tanks with some frog species and the very rare Western Swamp Turtle (more commonly referred to as Western Swamp Tortoise). There were three on display but a keeper told me they had another 160 off-display. Perth has been successfully breeding this species for some years now and has been releasing the progeny into the wild.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/merton-s-water-monitor-423412/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/merton-s-water-monitor-423411/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/western-swamp-turtle-422265/

    Walking into the Reptile House the first tank I saw housed a little monitor lizard. It was not a species I had heard of - Australia has around 30 species of monitor and many have very small distributions - so I photographed the label for my reference later. The lizard had poked its head out from under a rock so I snapped a photo of it. When I got back to my hotel and was labelling the images I couldn’t remember the name, and the photo of the label was so badly blurred I couldn’t even make out any of the words (the label was backlit and the exposure was about a second).

    Other reptiles on display included Perentie, Western Tiger Snakes, Southwestern Carpet Pythons, Pygmy Pythons, Corn Snake, Death Adder, Dugites, Shinglebacks, Western Bluetongues, Frill necked Lizard, Black-headed Pythons, Womas and a large Reticulated Python. The reptile house was darkened, but not dark, and the cages were well-lit.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/reptile-house-interior-422248/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/western-bluetongue-shinglebacks-422262/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/southwest-carpet-python-exhibit-422220/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/southwest-carpet-python-422256/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/pygmy-python-exhibit-422245/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/dugite-422224/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/western-tiger-snake-423415/

    After the Reptile House I visited the gift shop (called “Zoonique”) and purchased a couple of books on the birds and wildlife of Western Australia, and then returned to my hotel.

    When I started labelling the images on my computer, and I discovered the issue with the small monitor and its name, I resolved to see it again on my return just so I would know what it was. But as happens, one my friends who is an elephant keeper at the zoo invited me to a pizza night at her friend’s place not far from my hotel. When introduced to him I discovered he was the head reptile keeper at the zoo. So I asked him about the lizard and he told me the name – Dampier Peninsula Monitor. I mentioned I had never heard of it and he wasn’t surprised – the species was only described in 2014. It is believed to have a very localised distribution on the Dampier Peninsula in northern Western Australia, and pretty much nothing is known about it as only four specimens have ever been collected, and three of them are in glass jars of alcohol at the West Australian Museum. The individual at Perth Zoo is the only specimen in captivity anywhere. It is now considered to be the smallest varanid in the world.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/dampier-peninsula-monitor-only-one-captivity-422261/

    When I returned to the zoo on the day of my departure the little monitor was quite active; she was in the middle of shedding her skin so was rubbing up against rocks and crawling around quite a bit, even biting at parts of the skin to try and remove it.

    http://www.zoochat.com/23/dampier-peninsula-monitor-423405/
    http://www.zoochat.com/23/dampier-peninsula-monitor-423404/

    Had I not met the reptile keeper and asked about the lizard I would have just photographed the label again or written the name down, and not realised until much, much later how rare this little creature was.

    And I know some ZooChatters can relate to that!

    :p

    Hix
     
  2. Jabiru96

    Jabiru96 Well-Known Member

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    Perth Zoo currently holds none of these species.
     
  3. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Thanks for the wonderful review and accompanying photos. I've lived almost my entire life in Canada but when I was quite young I spent 2.5 years living in Bunbury, just south of Perth. I have fond yet very hazy memories of visiting Perth Zoo on a couple of occasions in 1987 and 1988 and your review makes me want to revisit the place at some point in my life.
     
  4. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Sounds fantastic Hix, thanks for posting this. I've been enjoying your photos from the zoo, especially of that unique monitor and some of the nocturnal treasures. Was everything special in the nocturnal house easy to see on your first walk through the house?

    Did you manage to visit AQWA or any other collections during your trip? :)
     
  5. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    um... that is almost literally what he said.
     
  6. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    when I was there in 2011 the squirrels were notably absent from the zoo grounds. I had to find them at a nearby golf-course instead.


    the nocturnal house was the best part of the zoo for me. So many amazing species I had never seen before! Owlet-nightjar was in particular pretty special to see. Is the slow loris still on show?


    My visit from 2011 is here, for anyone who wants a comparison: http://www.zoochat.com/24/perth-zoo-visit-october-2011-a-243233/
     
  7. Jabiru96

    Jabiru96 Well-Known Member

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    Well he did say that "parts of the zoo were closed off, including most of the Asian Section, so some of these species might still be present".
     
  8. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    ok, fair enough.

    Usually caveats can be construed as "I'm almost certain but just in case...."
     
  9. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    That's how I meant it, but it's still nice to have independent confirmation!

    The Dibbler and the Short-eared Rock-Wallaby were very obvious, the first sitting under it's heat lamp, the second on an exposed shelf. Both visits they were both in the same location, but different positions. Red-tailed Phascogales active both times, Western Ringtail only on the first visit. Ghost Bats always visible. The Western Quoll was not visible the first visit, but on my last day it was out, running around the enclosure, and while I was resetting my camera for really dark photography, it went into it's box and settled down. But it didn't look very different from a Northern Quoll.

    While away I had one weekend free and, surprisingly, the weather was excellent both days. On the Saturday I caught the ferry to Rottnest Island and spent the day there returning in the evening (sunny all day with a top of 27ºC - the warmest August day in about 20 years). On the Sunday, still sunny, I visited Wungong Gorge and Bungendore Park, both just south of Armadale. After birdwatching there I spent an hour at the Armadale Reptile and Wildlife Centre and then bolted north of Perth to cram in 45 minutes at AQWA before closing time.

    Photos to come of both places, but no reviews.

    :p

    Hix
     
  10. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Thanks - it sounds like you had an amazing weekend. I look forward to the photos from the other collections.
     
  11. tetrapod

    tetrapod Well-Known Member

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    Nice review Hix.
    Some points that I picked up on:
    Interesting about the squirrels. I wonder whether rat-baiting has taken it's toll on the species.
    I'm sure the lemur islands have been around for quite some time, possibly early 80s.
    Nocturnal House is a definite plus for the zoo. Hasn't always been the way, but the last time I was back in Perth it was looking great for a building built in 70/80s. Good mix of species.
    South American area was (at one stage) the World of Birds. Most of it was Australian natives and very well-planted out. Have been waiting for some time to hear any news on the refurb (as from what I could see many aviaries were torn down) but it has been quiet apart from the addition of coatis.
    Tiger enclosures previously held black and Persian leopards as well as lions.
    Old penguin exhibit with the Brown Boobys and Pacific Gulls was in front of the cafe, next to the old otter castle (no signs of either). Both victims of progress.
    Were the water monitors and turtles in the huge indoor enclosure? This is/was the saltie's exhibit. The other fish in this exhibit were eel-tail catfish and western rainbowfish (note: may have changed).
    Nice spot on the dwarf monitor. I'd imagine that most visitors wouldn't give it a second glance.