Monday, August 13, 2012

Dingoin' out of my mind.

There is something to be said about Australia's willingness to let you touch its' native animals at completely legitimate zoological establishments.  It's like the country got together and had a nice chat about it.  "Our animals are excellent and unique, right?  We should totally let people touch them"

Then they broke for tea and bikkies.  (Seriously, this is one of my favorite things about Australia...and maybe it was really me just breaking for tea and bikkies....)

Coming from years of volunteering at a zoo in the states and through our travels around zoos in the US, I can say that something that I always felt was lacking was animal encounter opportunities.  Honestly, who doesn't want to have a cuddle or some pats with an animal?  And guess what?  Seeing animals in captivity is one thing, but touching and having an experience with that animals is on an entirely different level. It makes you care more.  It means something.  Even if it's just with say...a bird.  A scary, scary bird.

Ironically wearing an owl hat.
No?  No one else feels me on that one?  Birds are frightening.  AND LOOK AT THEM.  First off, they are very nearly forming a pack there on my arm.  Secondly, and if I remember my docent training correctly, birds are like sharks and are prone to feeding frenzies in which they are indiscriminate in their killing.*

Anyway, enough of my bird-terrors animal-loving, conservation rant.

Besides Healsville making you think twice about using too much toilet paper....

She works out.

...petting their animals is as. cool.  as.  all.  get.  out.  So when Alyssa booked her trip, the literal first thing I did (besides squeals of joy for a visitor from home) was immediately start planning our return trip to the Healsville Sanctuary for as many animal pats as the day would allow.

Weeks earlier through my zoo membership magazine, I learned that Healsville is now offering echidna pats.  Maybe some of you don't know what an enkidna is.  (unless you've played sonic and knuckles.  hint: he's not sonic.  sonic is the hedgehog.  and no, it's not the two tailed fox either.  it's the red guy.)

Natural habitat of the Echidna, note it's natural predator the...uh, robot fish?  And yes, this is actually what Australia looks like, ocean, palm trees and golden coins floating in the air.  Squint and you can see my apartment in the background.
To be fair, if you didn't know what an echidna was, blogger doesn't even seem to know what it is either, because it keeps encouraging me to change it to enchilada.  So get your learnin' caps on kids: An Echidna is one of the three egg laying mammals, along with platypus and me.  What?  You're trying to say laying eggs wouldn't be easier than live births?  All the incubation takes place outside of the body.  Count me in.  THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN.

But I digress with dreams of being a dinosaur (I've got the t-rex arms down....)

When I called to book a formerly-baby-now-juvenile wombat encounter for Shawn and Alyssa, they informed me that they were only taking reservations for echidnas on the day of due to the fact that they tend to be the devon of animals temperamental.  So I just booked the wombats and figured we could book more on the day as time and desire would allow.

Thankfully this time around I had the super powers of SEABANDS!  which prevented me from feeling vomitious on the bus ride to Healsville.  And when we got there, we decided to book dingoes for all three of us AND put down for a tentative enchidna enounter for me and alyssa.

First we wandered around the saaaannnccctttuuuuuaarrrryyyy (say it like the hunchback) a bit while we waited for dingoes.  We ate some Vegemite sandwich and saw the bird show, and at the end there was a man of indigenous decent who threw boomerangs (I raised my hand when he asked who wanted the boomerang, but go figure, some adorable child got it, though originally he was looking for a blonde 30 year old) and played the didgeridoo.

 After that, it was time for dingoes.

Before we continue, I'm going to lay down some ground rules.
1) No "dingo ate my baby" jokes.  C'mon you guys are above that.  And besides, it really did eat her baby and babies eaten by wild animals is very sad.
2)  Seriously.  Get them out of your system before moving on.
3) I mean it.

okay? okay.  Everyone just thinks of dingoes as dogs.  But I can say, dingoes are NOT dogs.  They are more awesome than dogs.  They are like cats.  Here's some fun facts about dingoes.

Unlike dogs, dingoes are NOT food motivated and certainly don't do things just to please you.  They do things when they want and if they want.  (Yay!  Cat dogs!)

Unlike dogs, who can just move their paws up and down, dingoes can move their paws like we can move our hands, in all directions.  Making it tricky to keep them in an enclosure with a latch on it.

Because unlike some breeds of dogs....


The encounter started out by just sort of letting them get used to us and then we got to take photos by them.  At this point, the adorable dingoes started to give us kisses.  It was, hands down, so far my favorite animal encounter.  EVER. 

Pro Tip:  When you're in an animal encounter and someone asks you if you'd like to go again, don't look about your group like, oh that person would probably like another picture with the animal.  NO.  Immediately volunteer.  Then you get a picture of just you with the animal AND bonus, more kisses if you're with the dingoes.  That right there is worth any scorn from anyone who didn't speak up.

After that we immediately went over to the echidna encounter.  The echidna is another smart animal, because unlike stupid humans, it doesn't like to come out of it's burrow when it's stormy out. (side note: I need a burrow) Thankfully, this little girl was able to be coaxed out of her burrow for what was essentially some insectivore mash, aka mushed up insects and meat.  YURM!  She was completely adorable and since it was just me and Alyssa (with Shawn peering over the side of the enclosure...we were fast friends with the zoo encounter employee at this point) we got to spend lots of time with the little one.  Although they have spikes, they're still pretty soft and unlike say...a porcupine, they can't lose those spines.  I still owe Kendra an encounter with one for her birthday, so I'm excited to be able to do it again.

We ALSO spent some time in the wild bird enclosure where you get to hand feed birds.  And they fly around you and sit on you and really consider pecking out your eyes.  Generally, reliving it makes me feel nervous.

After that, we headed over to the wombat area where Shawn and Alyssa were going to have an encounter with the juvenile wombats.  I sat quietly watching the Tasmanian Devils run amok in their enclosure.  I'd like to say I had a nice chat with a docent that wandered in, but it wasn't a nice chat at all.  She was just complaining that it had been raining.  Another note to zoo volunteers, I'm not there to listen to you complain, so if you can't give me a fun fact about Tasmanian devils, please just keep on moving.

In closing, I present to you a really amazing montage.  Now, I know after seeing this you'll all be like, devon, whyyyyy did you give up on such a promising film career??!!  And then you will shed some tears for all that the world has lost.  (god, i miss my macintosh......)

*yeah, that is completely untrue.

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