Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jirralingah Koala Wildlife Sanctuary

Last weekend I got a chance to hang out with a few of the students from AAHL.  It's been more difficult to meet people my own age that I expected, so when one of the students told me they were having a get-together, I was more than happy to come along.  We spent the evening at one of the girls' house in Clifton Springs, about a 20 min drive from Geelong.  I had a blast hanging out with the group and we made plans that evening to enjoy a breakfast in the morning and then head to Jirralingah Wildlife Sanctuary to see the koalas, kangaroos and other animals they have.

The next morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at The Dunes in Ocean Grove.  The restaurant is located right on the beach and we had a beautiful view of the ocean for our meal.

After breakfast, I wanted to check out the beach and watch the surfers.  The weather was absolutely beautiful, so lots of surfers were out enjoying the waves.  I'm told that the Ocean Grove beach is very popular with surfers, and they can get some huge waves there.  As this was the first really warm day of the season, everyone was out on the beach enjoying the sun.


The plan after breakfast was to head to Jirralingah, but when we arrived there we were told that it was closed for the day for a special fundraiser.  I was extremely disappointed, mainly because we had been talking about it all day and I was really excited to get up close to a koala.  Also, the wildlife sanctuary is quite a fair distance from Geelong, not a distance that I am willing to do on my bike.  Since I'm without a car here, it's hard to get around to places outside the city.  The lady at the front gate gave us a coupon for $4 off admission if we came the next day.  Thankfully Alannah, one of the girls in the group, was willing to come get me the next day to enjoy a visit to Jirralingah.

So Sunday morning, take two, Alannah and I headed to Jirralingah.  Admission was a bit pricey (normally $18 but $14 for us with the discount), but it was a special trip and I was really excited to get up close with some of the Australian animals.  There were lots of birds in enclosures all over the grounds.  Working within the lab at AAHL means I have to stay 3-4 m away from birds and farm animals, but we were still able to enjoy looking at the birds without getting too close.


The cockatoos were really charming to look at.  Most all of them had been pets at one time and arrived at the sanctuary because their owners couldn't care for them anymore.  Cockatoos are from Australia, and I find it so weird to see them flying around in large flocks, just like Canadian geese.  They're very pretty, but quite noisy.  I enjoyed seeing them at the sanctuary but I have no desire to have one in my own house (too noisy and dangerous, they can take your fingers off with one bite!).

They had a wide variety of birds, including galahs, different varieties of lorikeets (the rainbow lorikeets are my favorite) and cockatoos, kookaburras, budgies, cockateils, and others.

Rainbow lorikeets

Unfortunately I don't know much about the birds of Australia, so I can't enlighten you on all the species we saw.  If you'd like to learn a bit more, I recommend visiting my friend's blog,  Dr. Celia - she is a veterinarian practicing near Sydney, Australia (and also happens to be a KSUCVM 2013 classmate!)  She can tell you more about these birds (and in a much more entertaining way as well)

There were a few larger areas of the sanctuary with wallabes and kangaroos.  Perhaps this was naive of me, but I didn't realize that there are different kinds of kangaroos/wallabes, just like there are different varies of bears, turtles, etc.  The wallabes were really charming - they were in a very loose enclosure that allowed them to go onto the path.  They seemed quite content to graze in small groups, just like cattle.  Of course, I found the does with joeys in their pouches to be the most interesting

She wasn't too happy with me being close to her joey
Wallabe central
Kangaroos relaxing

The wallabes and kangaroos were fun to see, but the main reason I want to Jirralingah was to see a koala, up close and personal.  One of the keepers escorted us into the koala enclosure and told us a bit about the koalas they had.  Their large male, George, was the easiest to see.  They had a secondary area with females and their babies.  Ironically, baby koalas are called joeys - didn't know that until the keeper told me.  But then again, Australian animals aren't really emphasized in vet school in the states...

We weren't allowed to hold the koalas, but we got plenty close to them.  Since they're nocturnal, they were all napping when we looked them.  They looked quite peaceful, but I'm told that the males get really nasty when they fight.  Plus, they have some serious claws for climbing trees.  Regardless of them being dozy, I was happy to get to see one up close - part of "Australian bucket-list."

George dozing
Sharp claws for climbing


The keeper got other animals from the back for us to hold.  She brought out a possum, a bushbaby, two baby dingos and a joey.  The possum and bushbaby were fun to hold because they would cling to your hand.  The bushbaby was alert enough to demonstrate her prehensile tail for us, and the two dingo pups were exceptionally charming.  The joey was all legs - reminded me a bit of a foal in that respect.



Love those dorky ears!

The koalas were a blast, and being able to hold the possum and bushbaby was quite a treat!  I expected to find the koalas as my favorite, but I have a new Australian animal favorite: the wombat.  They are adorable little dense critters, like beavers without long tails.  They have rounded bear-ears with big claws and cute compact faces like guinea pigs.  I'm told they're quite friendly, but we didn't really get up close to one.  When we visited the area of the sanctuary with the wombats, they had just received their food, so they were very busy chowing down.

Chow time!

Napping dingos
All in all, it was a great day at the sanctuary.  It was nice and warm, but we had a good cloud cover so the sun wasn't too bad.  I'm so grateful that Alannah was willing to go back the next day with me to enjoy all the animals!!

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