Some sad news from our capital, Canberra, on the passing earlier in the month of Humbekhali.
Hummer, as he was known to his friends, died peacefully of old age.
He had been a fixture at the National Zoo and Aquarium for many years.
Sleep well, our friend. You will be missed.
On a lighter note the National Zoo has one of the best ever picnic areas ever : playground equipment, walking tracks, barbeque facilities, and lots of fun things to enchant Little People and us more cynical types.
Might be time to start planning another trip to the ‘Berra.
I’ve never seen any in my 25 odd years living in South East Queensland, though there are three main species, originally introduced in the early 1870’s, found around the western suburbs of Brisbane. They are considered pests for a variety of reasons and Brisbane Council undertakes an integrated approach to deer management which includes “monitoring, education, trapping, and shooting”. I repeat: shooting.
Just like dogs and cats that have been injured and need to recuperate, need to be re-homed, have been orphaned, or generally need to be rescued, Brisbane has a Rescue Deer Sanctuary.
Lyall Deer Sanctuary, nestled in the foothills of Mt Samson, has been taking in deer in need for over thirty years.
On site are also cows, goats, chickens and peacocks, all friendly and demanding pats (and pellets at $1 a bag). This is a nice place to introduce the Really Little People to animals.
The real positive about this outing, other than our picnic lunch and the fawns with wet noses who wanted cuddles, was that unlike with dogs and cats that need a home I had no interest in putting a deer in the back seat of the car.
The soft nuzzling combined with gentle clawing moved slowly up the inside of my thigh. Too shocked by circumstances I found myself numb, unable to move. Unable to think. Too stunned to react I sat perfectly still and waited for what was to come next.
The crisis was averted when the Spotter amongst the clan gave a chirp warning the fifty odd Meerkats in the enclosure of impending danger. The young female foraging for tucker under my billowing skirt immediately followed the spotters call and scuttled off towards the tunnels along with the others in her clan.
Living underground in burrows, which they dig with their long sharp claws, keeps mob members safe from Predators, especially in their natural environment of the deserts and grasslands of Africa.
Meerkats have bushy, brown-striped fur, a small, pointed face and large eyes surrounded by dark patches. They average about 50 centimetres long, including their tail and are extremely social animals.
Meerkats only go outside during the daytime. Each morning, as the sun comes up, the mob emerges and begins looking for food. They use their keen sense of smell to locate their favourite foods, which include beetles, caterpillars, spiders and scorpions. They”ll also eat small reptiles, birds, eggs, fruit and plants. Back at the burrow, several babysitters stay behind to watch over newborn pups. This duty rotates to different members of the mob, and a sitter will often go all day without food. The babysitter’s main job is to protect pups from meerkats in rival mobs who, if given the chance, will kill the babies.
The Meerkat Experience at the Hunter Valley Zoo is certainly an Up Close And Personal one as I discovered.
The Zoo Keeper insisted that we sit on the dirt floor of the enclosure at all times during the 20 minute interaction with these inquisitive and social little creatures from the mongoose family. This reduces the fear factor for the Meerkats as we remain close to their eye level, and also reduces our abilities to make any fast movements which would frighten these flighty little creatures.
All our questions were answered by the Zoo Keeper who was able to identify all the meerkats and call them by name as she patiently explained their behavioural patterns.
Escape is certainly on ones mind when a Meerkat climbs onto your head, let me tell you. And why would a Meerkat climb onto your head? Two reasons : searching through ones hair looking for tucker is the obvious one – because who doesn’t have mealy worms in their long golden locks?- and also because it is a high point for that spotter Meerkat to watch for enemies.
This is a highly recommended interaction with the animal kingdom and one which we will always remember fondly.
The Hunter Valley Zoo is a private run zoo located at 138 Lomas Lane, Nulkaba, near Cessnock in the heart of the Hunter Valley, NSW. They also offer Close Encounters with Lemurs, Tamarins and Marmosets as well as exhibits of the usual array of animals and an extensive breeding program for endangered species.
With expansive picnic grounds and free barbeque facilities this is the perfect venue for family outings. There are regular talks from Keepers around the different exhibits which ensure that this is not merely a day gawking at the animals, but one where you can learn so much more about them.
Edgar’s Mission is a not-for-profit animal shelter in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. It provides care for homeless, abused, injured or abandoned animals, especially livestock or “farmed animals”. The sanctuary, sprawls over 153 acres and is given over entirely to the wellbeing of 432 rescue animals: ex-breeding pigs, injured lambs, one-eared survivors of dog attacks, cows born with blindness or other birth defects, chickens, roosters, turkeys, rabbits, spring-loaded baby goats and stray cats lounging in the sun.
One of the programs instigated to assist is encouraging volunteers to read to the animals. Apparently they like children’s books, particularly anything written by Enid Blyton, although the goats have a tendency to chew on the pages.
The animals find the voice of someone reading quite soothing and it reduces their anxiety levels. Sounds a better option than Diazepam, doesn’t it?
I’m just not sure which book/s I would read to the farm animals. Maybe The Wonky Donkey and some Beatrix Potter?
My local Library has recently instigated a program where 6, 7 and 8 year olds can visit after school and they can practise their reading skills and gain confidence by reading to a Story Dog.