Sunday, March 30, 2014

Adelaide Zoo and Botanic Garden

The last day I could sight-see in Adelaide was spent just were you'd expect it- at the zoo! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to meet any of the keepers in Adelaide. I just visited and looked at the animals, like a normal person. Adelaide Zoo was very close to the middle of the city and easy to get to from the bus stop. On the way there, I passed by the entrance to a music festival. It gave a hippy/folk vibe. I wasn't terribly interested in the festival, but found it hilarious that they had a large space of ground set aside as a "bike car park". The area was packed so full of bicycles that they had "overflow parking" along the fences surrounding the festival.

When I reached the zoo, it was much later in the day than I had expected it would be. I had forgotten to factor in over an hour for the bus and the fact that I was walking from there. I asked the lady at the admission counter what presentations were still happening. The last one of the day was just about to occur in their education building. So I rushed over immediately. The talk was on reptiles. There were people of all ages, including many little kids huddled around the front. When I walked in, the man giving the talk was already holding a blue-tonged skink and letting the crowd feel it's scales. He put the skink away, and reached into a container for a snake. 

"Does anyone know what we call this snake?" He enthusiastically held out a corn snake. I halfheartedly whispered the snakes name, assuming the kids in the front would know it. They were silent. "How about the adults?" More silence. I said the name again, but since I was in the far back from arriving late nobody heard. "What if I tell you this one's name is Maize/Maze and her friend of the same species is named Cobb." One elderly man in the crowd questioningly guessed corn snake, finally! The man giving the talk explained that most people might not have ever heard of corn snakes because they are illegal to have as pets here. This is due to them not being native.

After returning the snake to its box, the educator began talking to the kids about snakes they might find in their own backyards that could kill them. Specifically, he mentioned the two most deadly land snakes in the world that that live nearby, the Eastern Brown Snake and the Inland Taipan (aka the Fierce Snake.) He explained that if you came across one of these snakes you should stop, and slowly walk away if possible. If bitten you should identify the snake, get away calmly, notify someone for help, and pressure bandage the wound and above it. Apparently people have confused pressure bandaging with using a tourniquet and have had to get their limb amputated unnecessarily. He spent a bit of extra time describing the difference. Near the end of the talk, he also mentioned that snake bites in different areas of the world should be handled differently. His advice only pertained to Australian snakes.

After the reptile talk, I looked at the zoo map to decide what to see first. I ended up being able to see all of the animals, but I wanted to make sure to see the ones I was most interested in first, just in case I ran out of time. The giant panda caught my eye. I had never seen one in person before. 

I loved the panda staues on the way to the exhibit; loved them so much that I took more pictures of the staues than the animals. When I got to the exhibits I found that the female, Funi, was off display due to a pseudo-pregnancy.  The male, Wang Wang, was actively walking around his exhibit and eating. I snapped a few pictures of him before quickly going through the zoo to see the rest of the animals.

Wang Wang, the male giant panda.

The giant panda exhibit was quite large and beautiful, with a wide variety of trees, plants, rocks, and water features. 

While I couldn't get any good pictures of the tiger, I loved the signs. They were beautiful, bright, and informative!

I thought this guy was a squirrel at first glance, but it turned out to be a Common Tree Shrew. They are native to south east Asia.

While I am still not the biggest fan of otters due to rehabilitating two very naughty otters a few years ago, this Small Clawed Otter was too cute to resist.

I walked by the petting zoo and had to do a double take. This is a White-tailed deer fawn, isn't it? I don't know them too well, but sure looked like one to me. Never seen one in a zoo before.

And another pretty statue. :)

There were a few places in the zoo with small, dated, concrete and chain fence exhibits, but most were large and beautiful. I didn't think the zoo was quite worth the thirty something dollars I had to pay, but I'm still glad I went. I enjoyed the nocturnal house and the reptile house the most. Unfortunately, none of my pictures turned out from either place. 

After the zoo, I decided to take a peek into the Adelaide Botanic Garden, which happened to be just next door. The festival blocked off most of the paths into the garden, but I was able to find a clear one without too much trouble. I walked around, took a few pictures, and then left in the pursuit of a barbecue chicken dinner. 

Was filled with birds, bathing in the water


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cleland Wildlife Park

When Jess (I was staying at her house, if you forgot) had a bit of time off from work, she offered to drive me to Cleland Wildlife Park. Cleland specializes in native animals. Most of the exhibits are mixed species and welcome visitors to walk through the enclosures, pet, and feed the animals. Most of the time these animals were wallabies, kangaroos, emus, and many other birds. There were also exhibits for animals that could not do close encounters, much like you would expect in a zoo.

The drive up to Cleland Park was pretty long from the house. By the time we got there we only had a couple hours left to spend. The park was large and required quite a lot of walking. We set off in a direction we thought would land us at a Tasmanian devil talk right as it would begin.

The first thing I noticed were little chubby animals running wild at our feet. Jess called them Aussie rats, but I'm pretty sure the animals were actually known as potaroos. In my defense, I wasn't the only person taking pictures of these guys.

We entered through a gate and began walking down a dirt path toward another gate. Halfway down this path I noticed some people out in the field that we were crossing through. Surrounded by them were wallabies! I convinced Jess to come over and see them, and take a couple pictures of me with them. She had me take a few pictures too, and then, as she was paying attention to a few Roos around her, I got myself a wallaby selfie. :)

I'm still not really sure what the difference is between a kangaroo and a wallaby or if the titles are arbitrary. I think there were red kangaroos, grey kangaroos, kangaroo island kangaroos, yellow footed rock wallabies, and swamp wallabies. Since I'm not too great at identifying them, and there wasn't adequate signage, I'll won't call any by a specific species for this blog entry.

For the record, animals aren't too big on this whole selfie thing.

The younger generation of wallabies seem to understand this trend a bit better.

There were also a few emus in with the wallabies. This was the point when I learned that Jess was afraid of emus. They followed us in hopes of food, so I stayed behind Jess, between her and the emus. 

We went through the next gate, and guess what! There were more wallabies! We got a few small handfuls of food and coaxed them close. These guys were even more adorable than the last ones. This might have been because I found their awkward little mouth movements as they ate cute beyond belief. 

There were a few large kangaroos in the next area as well.

Eventually, the path led us to some smaller exhibits. The first was a wombat exhibit, but all of he wombats were out of view within their burrow. The next was an echidna. If you've been reading my previous blogs, you should know quite a bit about these awesome monotremes by now.

An echidna. 

Finally we reached the Tasmanian devil exhibit just before it was time for a keeper to begin an educational talk and feeding for this solitary devil. Devils got their name due to several factors. They make a unique and apparently horrible sounding vocalizations, they yawn showing their mouth of sharp teeth in defense, and their ears turn red when excited or irritated. Devils are the largest living marsupial in the world. One thing I find really fascinating about them is the number of babies they have. According to most reliable sources, Tasmanian devils have 20-30 joeys at a time. The truly interesting part is that they only have four teats. This means that only the first four joeys to attach to a teat will survive their very first day of life. Even after that, the average devil only have two or three of her joeys make it all the way to independence per birth.

Originally devils were widely dispersed throughout Australia. Before Europeans came to Australia, devils had been wiped out everywhere except Tasmania. Dingos are thought to be the cause of this extinction. Eventually Europeans made it to Tasmania with their livestock and created a bounty for devils, who were thought to be livestock killers. In 1941, the small remaining population became protected. Due to this, there is limited genetic diversity within the population, making it easier for diseases to spread.

One such disease which is currently threatening the survival of Tasmanian devils is the Devil Facial Tumor Desease (DFTD). Discovered in the mid 1990s, DFTD is spread primarily through saliva, biting and sharing of food. (It's kinda like a Tasmanian devil zombie apocalypse.) It devastatingly has ripped through Tasmania. The symptoms begin with facial and mouth sores, lesions, and tumors, making it painful or impossible to eat. This progresses quickly, eventually leading to death from cancerous tumors, infections, or starvation.

While research is being done on the disease, there is little hope of stopping it in already infected populations. Efforts are now being focused on isolating populations which have not yet been infected and breeding captive populations to be released back to Tasmania once the disease is no longer a threat. 

We watched the devil eat his food and then slowly made our way over to the dingo enclosure for the next talk. On the way, we passed a koala area with a long line of people trailing around it. Cleland charges people to hold koalas, and a little extra to get a picture as proof. I had already held koalas and had no desire to wait in line. We made it to the dingo exhibit just before the next talk. Unfortunately we didn't know where exactly the talk would be and ended up on the wrong side. The keeper actually entered the dingo exhibits and pet the dingos like you would a dog throughout the talk. Couldn't hear a thing, but then a super chubby dingo came out for dinner and it was worth it just to see that. :)

We left the park after the dingo talk. On the way back Jess stopped at the Mt. Lofty Summit to show me the view. She said it wasn't worth the hike, but it was still a nice view. 

Next to the Summit gift shop I found a penny crushing machine. I laughed and asked what was used for the penny since Australia doesn't have copper coins or one cent coins. Jess explained that the machines have a stock of American pennies inside of them. You just have to insert two dollars, and a crushed penny will fall out. Well done America!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Adelaide Koala & Wildlife Hospital

Warning: This blog entry has an excessive amount of cuteness and some sadness. Please discontinue reading if you experience any of the following symptoms: overuse of extended vowel sounds, over-productive tear ducts, or deciding to quit life and just become koala. 

The koala cared more about the window behind us than posing for a selfie... 

The Adelaide Koala and Wildlife Hospital officially opened it's doors in February 2014, one month ago. I didn't even know they existed until the director, Rae, sent me an email inviting me to spend a day volunteering there. I called her and asked if it would be possible to extend that time to a week. I instantly liked Rae. She was amazingly sweet, but enormously sassy. Her conversation hinted of a full and adventurous life. And she loved Tennessee, becoming giddy each time I mentioned my childhood hometown. The hospital had more than enough volunteers, but Rae was happy to let me volunteer for a whole week.

It took two busses and just under two hours to get to the hospital from where I was couchsurfing. I went from no schedule at all to waking up at 6:00am and getting home at 7:00pm every day. Every part of my body hated me for this. I didn't expect it. I'm a workaholic in the states, always working two or three jobs at a time. I guess four months of laziness caught up to me!

My first day started on Monday, March 10th. I had already looked up all of the bus timetables and arrived at the bus stop in perfect time. And then I waited... and waited. I had no idea why the bus wasn't coming. After approximately 45 minutes of waiting, two ladies walked by on the other side of the street. One lady stopped and stared at me for a moment before yelling, "It's a holiday!" I yelled back for clarification to which she replied "It's a horse race. State holiday. The bus only runs every hour or so." I thanked her and then pouted in frustration over my luck of having my first day be the day busses barely ran. I called the hospital to let them know what happened, and, after over an hour wait, the first bus finally arrived. The second bus was not on it's usual schedule, adding an additional half hour. I finally got to the hospital and hour late, and dearly missing my car. 

The Koala Hospital looks like a very professional building, despite it being a remodeled house. There are hardwood floors throughout. The front room has two desks, koala themed items for sale, and some young, fuzzy koalas along the far size. Off of the front room are two smaller rooms and a hallway.  The first of those rooms, is filled with dog kennel sized caging for older koalas and some larger veterinary equipment. The next room is filled with birds and their supplies. Down the hallway is an overnight room for staff to stay when needed, and a bathroom, complete with a hot-tub. At the end of the hallway is a large kitchen/dining room, with a veterinary room connected. Behind the house is an under construction aviary, covered outdoor koala areas, and an education room. It is all very clean and well put together. I was impressed at how well done everything was.

Rae was at the hospital every day I was there. There was one veterinarian, who came by regularly, but didn't stay for too long. One or both of the two vet nurses were always working during open hours. As for volunteers, there were always 2-5 of us. Most volunteers came once every or every other week, and worked a half day shift. I stayed for the whole day, every day to learn as much as I could. If I had worked at my American pace, I could have done everything in the hospital by myself and possibly exceeded what was done with all those people. It took a few days to adjust to the Australian way. This is an average day: Open building, care for animals (approximately ten koalas, four birds, and a turtle), clean everything, have a morning tea break, bottle feed baby koalas, have a lunch break, assist with miscellaneous projects, bottle feed baby koalas again, have afternoon tea break, care for all animals again, clean, close building. For each break, everyone just finishes what they are doing and gathers together to talk, drink tea/coffee/coke, and snack. The slow pace is immensely beneficial for learning, community, and animal care. I had to remind myself of this frequently. Occasionally someone would act rushed to finish a task, and I just couldn't wrap my head around it. There was so much time and so many people for such little work to be done, at least compared to any work or volunteer environment I have ever been a part of before.

When I walked into the hospital on my first day, I was instructed to put on a scrub shirt and put my stuff away in the overnight room. Everyone was already busy at work, so I just asked a handful of volunteers if I could shadow them for the day. No one objected. The very first animal was a duck... I just rehabilitated hundreds of ducks in Minnesota. I respectfully learned how they cared for it, and did my best to replicate that. The second animal was a White-Cheeked Rosella. (That's a bird.) It really enjoyed having branches with flowers on them within it's cage. Outside, I helped rake out the AstroTurf bottom of the cage that contained a koala named Lillian. Every koala has a name in addition to its number. It seems like they keep trying to do a naming system, but nobody really follows it. I filled Lillian's water, gave her fresh eucalypt branches, and cleaned out her dirt bowl. Koalas sometimes eat dirt for additional minerals. 

Lillian chillin in her enclosure. During my time there, they thought she might have a pouch infection and were waiting for lab results back.

All of the other animals had been cared for, so it was time to clean. I assisted in cleaning tasks which were obvious: sweeping, mopping, hanging laundry, and so on. I avoided dishes other than my own. You see, apparently I do dishes the American way. I've been told Japanese also do them the same way. I take a fill a sponge with soap, scrub the dish, rinse it under a running tap, and then dry it. Every Australian I have seen do dishes fills the sink with soapy water, dumps all the dirty dishes into that water, scrubs the dishes underwater, and then takes them out to dry. I like my way better, but a lot of people comment about how I do it differently. It's just simpler to do other tasks instead.

I've had so many tea times that I can't even remember them apart from one another, but I assume I just spent the first one trying to get to know people. By the way, the word tea is used to mean the drink, a break, or a meal. That confused me for a while; I kept wondering why people drank coffee when they said they were going to have tea.

After tea, people got up from the table and returned with baby koalas in their arms. One lady walked up to me and asked if I would like to bottle feed a baby. I can just imagine the look that must be on my face every time someone asks me a question like this. Of course I wanted to bottle feed baby koalas! There were four joeys, two older than the other two. None of them were related, but the younger two were kept together for comfort. I was handed one of the younger two; I believe it was Sage. During my time there, I got to feed each of the four koalas twice. 

Wash cloth bib in place and ready to be fed!

Each koala has a little warm sack to sit in during feeding time. I'd like to say something cute about how it's comforting to them, but really it's to keep us from getting pooped on. 

Koalas are fed a formula milk designed especially for koalas. There are slightly different formulas based on the age of the Joey. Each of these four recieved the same formula. Rae mixed up the formula each morning and kept it in the fridge to be heated as needed. Warmed formula was drawn up into syringes with small funnels at the end for feeding. I tried the hold each koala in the position it seemed most comfortable in. This was usually cradled like a baby or sitting in the nook of my arm. Each joey also had a unique way of eating. 

Goldy was always eager for food. He was loud with gruff vocalizations when getting him out of the cage. When the syringe was near him, he would grab it and drink it's entire contents in a flash! Goldy enjoyed sitting on top or knocking down all of his branches. He is identifiable be the rings around his eyes. 

Meadow, seen here eating a leaf, had the funniest feeding method of any of the koalas. She would stick her younger out and lap up the formula. Rae thought she might have a cleft pallet at first, but her mouth was perfectly fine; she just seems to prefer drinking like a dog.

Saffron (looking at camera) and Sage both ate slowly and were volunteer favorites. Saffron is identifiable by the white freckles on her right cheek. Notice, all the joeys have large teddy bears to hold onto like they would a momma koala.

Koalas aren't born looking like the most adorable creatures on earth. No, they are born looking like pink jellybeans (2 centimeters long) after only 35 days of gestation. They use their tiny arms to climb into their mom's pouch. The koala slowly develops while attached to it's mom within the pouch for a little over six months after birth. Eventually, it begins to wander out (this is the gross part) to eat it's mom's poop.

Let me clarify a few things since we are on this topic. Koala poop is not square. I've heard this said about koalas and wombats. I don't know about wombats, but koala poop is oblong, and resembles that of a rabbit. This is not exactly what the joey eats; what it eats is much more disturbing sounding. The koala mother produces a soft and wet fecal substance specifically for her joey to eat, called pap. Contained in the pap are micro-organisms that the baby needs in order to digest ectalyptus leaves. If the mom dies and the joey is removed, pap is harvested from the end of the mother's cecum. In case you aren't aware, a cecum is a part of the digestion system which is a sort of dead end, keeping food in your tract longer so more nutrient absorption and material breakdown can occur. Koalas have a particularly long cecum due to their hard to digest diet of eucalypt leaves. There are over 600 species of eucalyptus, most being regional growers. Koalas are highly selective with what species leaves they will eat and preference varies widely between populations. Contrary to popular belief, koalas do not get "drunk" off of eucalyptus. They have a sluggishness to them due to the high amount of energy needed for digestion.

As joeys grow bigger, they begin to ride on their mother's back and eat leaves with her. The pair will stay together for approximately a year or longer depending on when the mother has her next joey. Females only have one baby per year and often skip years between. Females reach adulthood at approximately two years of age, while males take at least a year longer.

Until koala joeys grow fur and begin wandering outside of the pouch, they are called pinkies or pouch young. Pinkie koalas can be very difficult to hand rear. During my time at the hospital, there were two pinkies, but unfortunately neither one survived. The first pinkie was already there when I arrived, so I'm not aware of how the mother "went to rainbow bridge", as they preferred to say. Rae was the only one to care for the tiny babies since they are so sensitive. I was able to get one picture as Rae was preparing to feed her. 

You may find her cute, ugly, or resembling an evil mastermind of an alien race like I do, but she is most definitely a baby koala. I espessially like this photo because it shows koala hands quite well. They have two thumbs! I did not know that before coming to the hospital. They still only have five fingers per hand, but their index finger makes up a second thumb. They also have super sharp claws, mostly for climbing. I was a little sad that this picture didn't show her nose, but I wasn't going to chance my luck with a second picture.

A few days after starting at the hospital, a new koala came in. She was leaking brown goo out of her backside and was highly unlikely to survive. In these cases, the koalas normally don't get names. I kindly suggested naming her America, and they actually went with it! As assumed, she quickly declined and passed away from kidney/renal failure the day after she was brought in. She also had a pinkie in her pouch that was removed in attempt to save it. This pinkie was slightly smaller than the first, and ended up reaching the same outcome hours later. 


There are some success stories for pinkies though! One such story is KO, a now grown female koala, who due to other controllable medical issues can't be released back to the wild. She is well loved and practically gets the run of the place. Hopefully, South Australia will soon allow unreleasables like her to be used as public education ambassadors for their species.


The last of the koalas was Vivian. She was a young adult female with a pinkie in her pouch. She was suspected to have early renal failure, a common ailment in koalas. Rae believed this could be a result of stress due to aggressive large males. Vivian was one of my favorites. She would climb around her cage just to spy on people in the next room.


An interesting fact about South Australian koalas is that they all came from an extreme bottleneck in genetic diversity. Koalas were originally found in the state of South Australia, but became extinct when their fur became valuable in the 1920s. A small number of koalas (less than 10) were reintroduced to South Australia from an already deteriorating population in Victoria. 

Acerbated by frequent inbreeding, these koalas suffer from many fatal conditions. Kidney/renal failure, koala retrovirus, and chlamydia are the main concerns. Kidney/renal failure seems to occur in South Australia more than other parts of the country. The cause may involve many factors, but most research points to certain types of gum trees frequented by this population. Koala Retrovirus (KoRV) is an autoimmune disease that is both contagious and hereditary. It increases the chance of a koala succumbing to conditions such as tumors and infections. Chlamydia is the most well known koala disease. It can cause blindness, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and reproductive tract infections. The only population of koalas not to be found to have chlamydia is a large group on Kangaroo Island, off of South Australia. 

When reading up on koala diseases I saw the same facts again and again. Most koala populations seem to have dormant diseases of some kind; it is stress that is assumed to be in main factor in activating the diseases and harming the koala. Stress is attributed to mating season, deforestation, and side-effects of living near humans. 

My time at the Koala Hospital was amazing and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to help. I took many pictures, but most were accidentally deleted. There was an Eastern Snake-Necked Turtle that I spent a lot of time working with. Some additional animals included a galah and a pigeon. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Art Gallery of South Australia

The day after visiting the South Australian Museum I returned to Adelaide to visit the museum's close neighbor, The Art Gallery of South Australia. In front of the gallery stood a huge replica of a black house half buried sideways in gravel, reminiscent to me of the house falling from the sky in The Wizard of Oz. Hanging all around the gellery entrance were signs about their new, large exhibit, called Dark Heart. Everything was free, my preferred price, so I decided to have a look.

Most of my time was spent going through the Dark Heart exhibit, as paintings of fruit and portraits of unattractive rich people gets tiring. I did walk through the whole gallery, but did so rather quickly. I'm certain that I missed some famous pieces of artwork in the process. (Sorry Mom) I only gave my attention to things that caught my own interest. I didn't record the artists or information of most of these either.

There were a few rooms which focused quite a bit on aboriginal artwork, of or by indigenous people of Australia. There were a few head casts of aboriginal men and paintings of the scenery of their land.

There was one room with chairs facing three large screens. Each screen projected movies. To the left and right, the footage was of varying wild landscapes. In the front of the room was a long video showing many indigenous women sitting along a huge blank canvas, painting intricate designs on their individual sections. I watched a for few minutes and then continued down the path behind the main screen. On the other side was the completed painting shown in the video. A sign explained that this painting was a detailed map of their land and compared it with a remarkably similar aerial view. 

As I entered the Dark Heart exhibit, the artwork took on much more politically charged meanings.

"eX DeMedici: Inspired by the artist's recent visits to Iran, the work merges global brands representative of multinational corporations into a modified pattern from the Golestan Palace."

This was a wall of political leader portraits with parts of their face covered with black spray paint. 

"Kathryn Barton: The painting introduces the 'dark heart' of the exhibitions title which appears in the centre of the painting and beats in the exposed chest of an onlooking marsupial."

The next room was set up as a baby's nursery and filled with lavishly decorated taxidermied animals. The sign explained how the artist, Julia DeVille, was inspired by a fox skin a family member had hanging over a mirror for decoration when she was a child. 

The final exhibit that I found interesting was done by Fiona Hall. The sign said "The work contains responses to environmental and political issues, yet refrains from specific or conclusive commentary. The repeated motif of the skull functions as a momento mori, a reminder that our existence is but fleeting; with the cuckoo calling from the clocks as a harbinger of death and sorrow."

On the way back to the bus I passed the library. Outside the front doors were spiral rods with real books strung on it in a rainbow of colors. I assume the books were previously damaged books, recycled as artwork instead of thrown away.