Join our zoo community

Zooboy28 in Australia

Discussion in 'Australia' started by zooboy28, 25 Mar 2013.

  1. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2010
    Posts:
    4,798
    Location:
    Melbourne, Aust (ex. NZ)
    I thought a short blog would be a good way to document my time in Australia, specifically focusing on the zoos and wildlife I encounter.

    Just to introduce/recap my situation, I am a New Zealander, and have moved, with my partner, to Australia to start a PhD in Melbourne, Victoria. I haven’t been to Melbourne since I was six, so it is a big move for us. In theory, we should be here for the next three years, and I hope to keep this thread updated for the duration.

    As well as studying, I aim to visit most, if not all, the zoos in Australia in this time. :cool:
     
  2. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2010
    Posts:
    4,798
    Location:
    Melbourne, Aust (ex. NZ)
    Day One

    The problem with booking the cheapest flight from Auckland, NZ to Melbourne, Australia, is that you have to get up at 3am. The advantage is that you arrive at 9am local time, breeze through immigration and customs, and then have most of the day to explore the city. And you get to watch Hitchcock en route, which is a most excellent movie.

    After dropping off our gear at our central city hotel, we set off to explore, with the aim of finding some food and the aquarium, both of which were only a short walk away. Melbourne Aquarium is expensive, at $29 for students. It is now part of the SeaLife chain, although it has yet to be completely rebranded as such. The first part is a large exhibit for King and Gentoo Penguins, which was pretty impressive (especially the King Penguin chick – Australia’s first) and featured a decent underwater viewing area too. The first definite sign of Merlin wasn’t encountered until one entered the next zone – Seahorse Pier – although this too was impressive and is apparently the world’s largest seahorse collection.

    Upstairs was the River to Reef area, a series of exhibits starting with freshwater fish, inverts and herps, progressing to coastal species in the coral atoll. The highlight of this section was the Lagoon exhibit, a shallow, open tank with viewing from both above and the side, with a crashed small plane suspended from trees above. The principle inhabitants were Speartooth Sharks, a freshwater species that was very cool to watch. The basement level is home to the Oceanarium, a large tank with two tunnels and a variety of interesting fish species. This was another nice set-up, but did look a bit tired, like most of the aquarium.

    Overall, the Melbourne Aquarium has a very nice collection (could be strengthened with a few more aquatic herps – crocodiles being a prime example), but the aging infrastructure lets it down. Hopefully Merlin can reinvigorate this attraction, without losing its impressive collection.

    New Species: Water Python

    By now it was early afternoon, and we headed out into the disgusting heat (35C), where we found a free tram that took us around the city to near the Melbourne Museum. We had to walk through some gardens to get to the museum, and in these gardens we saw a variety of new bird species. We had seen a number of bird species earlier in the day – magpies, mallards, mynas, gulls and pigeons – but all I had seen in the last two days in NZ. The gardens were our first glimpse of common Australian species such as Magpie-larks and Dusky Woodhens, which were great to see.

    The Melbourne Museum is newly built and free to students, and was a very interesting place to visit. The central exhibition is a huge netted forest enclosure, which features a number of free-ranging and caged species. Called this magnificent display started near a pool with waterfall (complete with fish and turtles), wound up a path past more tanks with fish, frogs and skinks, and then opened up into the Eucalypt-dominated forest area, where we saw Eastern Water Dragons, Cunningham’s Skinks, Satin Bowerbirds and Red-browed Finches around us, and enclosures for Blotched Blue-tongues and inverts.

    The natural history displays were also exceptional, the mammal and invertebrate exhibitions especially, the latter having a large number of live displays. The Victorian wildlife section was great too, although the stuffed remains of Sam, the poster-koala of the bushfires which culminated in Black Saturday, told a sad story. Overall, the Melbourne Museum is a brilliantly designed collection, which showcases nature’s diversity extremely well.

    New Species: Rocky River Tree Frog, Blue Mountains Tree Frog, Southern Water Skink, Satin Bowerbird.
     
  3. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    1 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    6,366
    Location:
    Abbotsford, B.C., Canada
    This thread is a great idea! As someone who values your thoughts on this forum I would be intrigued to know more about what you are studying, when you plan to cross Australia visting zoos (it is of course a vast nation) and what your partner does as that individual has obviously had to uproot their life as well. My wife and I just finished watching Hitchcock about 20 minutes before I read this thread, and since we've exchanged zoo map packages in the past that makes two coincidences between us. If you don't want to put that kind of information on ZooChat then a private message would be appreciated.

    I was a little disappointed when I toured Melbourne Aquarium in 2007, but that was before the penguin exhibit and the purchase by Merlin. The facility does not take very long to see and it is extremely expensive for what is on offer. On a side note, you mentioned "aging infrastructure" but the aquarium is actually less than 15 years old!
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,473
    Location:
    not travelling
    just in advance, which Australian zoos have you visited previously?
     
  5. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

    Joined:
    20 Oct 2008
    Posts:
    4,452
    Location:
    Sydney
    I'm also interested to know what Zooboy28 plans on studying, and a bit of clarification: when you posted "New Species:" in the posts above, are they new species at the facilities, or new species for you?

    :p

    Hix
     
  6. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,473
    Location:
    not travelling
    also: what species were in Melbourne Aquarium's "Seahorse Pier"?
     
  7. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    1 Mar 2011
    Posts:
    4,710
    Location:
    Melbourne, VIC, Australia
    Are they called dusky woodhens in NZ? I suspect that you saw dusky moorhens.
     
  8. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2010
    Posts:
    4,798
    Location:
    Melbourne, Aust (ex. NZ)
    Ok, to answer your quick questions:

    @Chlidonias: I have visited Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary and Western Plains Zoo in the distant past, in fact it was so long ago I have no direct recollection of them, I've just seen the photos. In the less distant past I have visited Sea World (x2), Dream World, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (x2) and Australia Zoo, I can remember these, but visits were 8-12 years ago. More recently, I have visited Taronga Zoo, Australian Reptile Park and Sydney Aquarium (all twice), and Sydney Wildlife World and Featherdale, and have good memories of these places. I'll get back to you about seahorse species.

    @Hix: The "New Species" are just species that are new to me, so are probably of little interest to anyone except myself.

    @nanoboy: We don't call them anything in NZ, as we don't have them, it should say Dusky Moorhens, my bad. :D
     
  9. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2010
    Posts:
    4,798
    Location:
    Melbourne, Aust (ex. NZ)
    Well, I had no idea the aquarium was less than 15 years old, I'm quite surprised actually. Having said that, the building itself does look about that old, but the inside certainly feels older than that. Perhaps "aging infrastructure" was the wrong term to use - it probably just needs a bit of renovation to get it loking sharp again, repaint and carpet, etc. Maybe "well-used" would be a better description - it was certainly packed when I visited. They have emptied most of the jellyfish exhibits in preparation for renovation, so once that's done then we'll know what standards they are aiming for, and whether it may become somewhere worth visiting.

    I should point out that I am not a fish person at all, I don't mind looking at them, but they don't interest me nearly as much as amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. As such, I haven't really got any comments on them and won't make an effort to see all the aquariums in Australia (although I will see a few). I saw the Melbourne Shark & Ray Centre the other day, but probably won't bother visiting that, mostly because Hix's review and photos of the Sydney one were less than inspiring.

    I make species lists for all animal collections I visit, and I'm happy to post these if anyone wants them, but they are limited to amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals that I actually saw during the visit.
     
  10. Coquinguy

    Coquinguy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    30 Aug 2005
    Posts:
    1,765
    Location:
    australia
    If you want to see a good aquarium, head to Sydney. Melbourne's is not as great as I had expected either. Melbourne Zoo's sea exhibit, on the other hand, is great and definitely worth visiting.
     
  11. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,473
    Location:
    not travelling
    I liked Melbourne Aquarium, but I loved Sydney Aquarium. I haven't seen it since the Merlin takeover though so I don't know how it stacks up now.

    My favourite exhibit at the Melbourne Aquarium was probably the lagoon which at that time was estuarine and housed elephantfish. I think that's where the speartooth sharks are now.
     
  12. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    1 Mar 2011
    Posts:
    4,710
    Location:
    Melbourne, VIC, Australia
    So where to next? Are you taking public transport to these places? When are you heading to Werribee?
     
  13. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    1 Mar 2011
    Posts:
    4,710
    Location:
    Melbourne, VIC, Australia
    A friend of a friend said that the urchins and star fish from the touch tanks regularly go missing from the Melbourne Aquarium. I am not sure how true this is, but they said it was quite common at an aquarium that they worked in in SE Asia.
     
  14. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2010
    Posts:
    4,798
    Location:
    Melbourne, Aust (ex. NZ)
    Patience, nanoboy, patience. All in good time. I have written how I got to the two collections described so far, and will continue to do so in future updates - which are coming soon.

    I'm going to Werribee on Thursday, but for a full-day 4WD training course, not to visit the zoo.
     
  15. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    1 Mar 2011
    Posts:
    4,710
    Location:
    Melbourne, VIC, Australia
    Is the 4WD training course related to your studies, or just for fun? It sounds very very cool - far more interesting than visiting the zoo come to think of it.
     
  16. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2010
    Posts:
    4,798
    Location:
    Melbourne, Aust (ex. NZ)
    Yea, I need some 4WD experience before I can go out to my field sites. I hope it will be fun, but I'm a bit apprehensive about it - I would definitely prefer zoo visiting.
     
  17. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2010
    Posts:
    4,798
    Location:
    Melbourne, Aust (ex. NZ)
    The species I noted (there may have been others) were:

    -Southern Pot-Belly Seahorse
    -Short-headed Seahorse
    -White’s Seahorse
    -Western Australian Seahorse
    -Port Phillip Pipefish
    -Australian Smooth Pipefish
    -Spiny Seadragon
    -Alligator Pipefish
    -Leafy Seadragon
    -Weedy Seadragon
     
  18. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2010
    Posts:
    4,798
    Location:
    Melbourne, Aust (ex. NZ)
    Day Two

    I am very much not a morning person, and further I am hopeless at getting anywhere on time. As such, I have only ever arrived at one zoo before opening time: Singapore’s Night Safari. Today, however, I had time zone differences on my side, and so after an early breakfast, we took tram 55 to the Melbourne Zoo, arriving just fifteen minutes after opening and finding a surprisingly empty zoo. We paid the reasonable admission of $20.20 and set off to the left to find the gorillas. The zoo map is the worst I have ever used (despite being in English!), and condenses far too much, making it tricky to work out where one is, and where one should go next. In fact, it wasn’t until I’d passed the empty primate islands and found my first animal – a snow leopard – that I realised we hadn’t even entered through the main gates, and I was essentially holding the map upside down.

    Because of the ridiculously hot weather (36C), we only went past everything once, but this still required five hours at the zoo – it is certainly bigger than the map suggests. Some areas were poor and disappointing, surprisingly these included the native animal section, which was nothing stunning, even the Great Flight Aviary was rather average. Contrary to glyn’s comment above, I found the Wild Sea complex to be extremely poor, although the Fiddler Ray exhibit was brilliant. This relatively new exhibit was overly artificial and, like many of the zoo’s exhibits, had extremely poor signage, to the point that I saw no signs stating what pinnipeds were on display. Another example of this was the Brazilian tapir exhibit, the sole sign for which had just one word: tapir. Other average areas included the “carnivore corner”, most of the exhibits in which were too small and outdated.

    In contrast to these exhibits, the zoo has some almost perfect enclosures, the standout being those for the Asian Elephants. There are three exhibits in total, with a temple theme, which actually works really nicely. The first held the bull, and he was swimming, collecting floating apples with his trunk which was awesome to watch, the rest of the herd were feeding in the third paddock, and it was amazing to see the interactions between the individuals (including between young calves). This was the best elephant exhibit I have ever seen. The Orang exhibits were also great, although I didn’t get to see them interacting with the Siamangs. Other memorable exhibits were the Reptile and Frog houses, and the Platypus, Tree Shrew, Baboon and Growing Wild (no sign of mara) exhibits. I loved the aviaries scattered through the rainforest section, but these had poor signage.

    One species I was hoping to see but didn’t was the Razor-billed Curassow – does anyone know if this individual is still at the zoo, and if it’s on display?

    Possibly one of the best things about Melbourne Zoo is the space it has. Despite its age (150 years), it has retained a lot of lawn and garden areas, in contrast to many of the “cramped” older zoos I have visited. There literally is room for improvement here, and the newer Trail of the Elephants and Growing Wild exhibits show that Melbourne can produce world-class displays, and we should expect great things from them.

    New Species: Desert Spadefoot Toad, Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog, Dainty Green Tree Frog, Twist-necked Turtle, Pygmy Mulga Monitor, Northern Blue-tongue Skink, Rock Rattlesnake, Brown Tree Snake, Southern Angle-headed Dragon, Dwarf Bearded Dragon, Grey Butcherbird, Blue-billed Duck, Peaceful Dove, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Helmeted Honeyeater, White-browed Woodswallow & Syrian Brown Bear.
     
  19. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    12 Feb 2009
    Posts:
    2,779
    Location:
    Melbourne
    :D :D

    The map could certainly do with some improvements. Can't believe that you've praised the ele complex and dissed the Great Flight Aviary. Tapir paddock might be listed as "tapir" because very occasionally you might see the Malayan in there, not the Brazilian. Just a theory.

    Wild Seas is poor with the exception of the Fiddler tank. Penguins would be good with more effort to encourage them to spend more time in the water.

    Haven't seen the curassow for years, and presume it has either died or moved elsewhere. It used to be in the macaw aviary near the bistro.
     
  20. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2010
    Posts:
    4,798
    Location:
    Melbourne, Aust (ex. NZ)
    There was a drawing of a Malayan Tapir on the sign, but surely they could have a sign for each easily enough. They could probably divide the paddock in two and have both on display at once even.

    The Great Flight Aviary is undoubtedly a great structure, but it was dirty, many of the signs were becoming illegible, and the collection within it was nothing spectacular. I can't think of any negatives about the elephant exhibits, although I do hope there is room for future expansion as the herd grows.

    The Fiddler Rays were soooooo cool, they were very inquisitive and friendly, and presumably safe to pat (no harm came to us anyway). The rest of Wild Seas should be levelled.

    Melbourne still lists one female curassow in the census, the last in the region, but it certainly could have died. That macaw aviary was nice - a good size and well planted.