Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Kangaroos, Koalas, and Lyre Birds -- Oh My!

Geoff is being the bestest host. This afternoon he rented a car (he lives in the central business district and does not own one) and we went many miles (er, kilometres) out of town to the Healesville Sanctuary which is a sort of outdoor environmental zoo and research center for Australian wildlife. Because yes, when I'm in Australia, I really should see a wallaby.

So I'm here to report that I did see some wallabees. And some red kangaroos. And some grey kangaroos. And some wombats.

Oh, and some koalas, at feeding time. And an exhibit of nocturnal animals, mostly rodents and rodentlike creatures. And a lyre bird in full display, trilling its long call that combines the calls of many other birds plus, in this case, the Space Invaders destruction sound. And many other native birds, right up close.And dingoes. And a tasmanian devil. And some echidnas.

Really, all of them. For real. The strange and odd creatures of this upside down land that we've all seen in books and nature films for our whole lives, but this time moving in 3-D. I've previously written how strange it felt to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, as if I had walked into a book. Seeing the Australian animals yielded that feeling many many times over. It was as if I wasn't actually experiencing what was right in front of me, in this Australian dream.

The best part by far was the platypusary. In reading the guidebooks in advance I came across that word in the descriptions of some of the zoos, and I knew I had to see one. Today I did. Wow.

When I was a kid and first learning about the Animals of the World, what I remember reading is that it was almost impossible to keep a platypus in captivity, and that we knew very little about them and their habits. Apparently that was old information. There has been much study since then, and the fortunate realization that they are more common than previously thought -- although they are nocturnal and rarely sighted. But I sighted a few, inches away on the other side of glass, swimming and playing around and feeding.

It was a cartoon come to life. It was Betty Boop out of the Inkwell. It feels unreal in the recollection.

I wish we'd had a lot more time. I guess I'll just have to come back to Australia.
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