The zoo with the view

Taronga Zoo. Officially opened in 1916, it boasts one of the best views in Sydney. Located in Bradley’s Head, parts of the zoo have a clear panorama of the harbour that includes the CBD, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

New Years Eve celebrations at the zoo are popular, with many paying hundreds of dollars to get a spectacular view of the Harbourside fireworks.

They say the zoo is is home to more than 4,000 animals of 350 species. Many of them are migrants who have come a long way to settle into their new Australian home.

One of my favourite animals is the Asian elephant. Throughout the centuries they have become symbols of wisdom and strength in many parts of the world. Their enclosure was one of the earliest to be built at Taronga Zoo.

In 2006, under great protest from animal activists, four Asian elephants arrived as part of the zoo’s conservation efforts. The activists were protesting against the animals’ removal from their native Thailand, stating there was no conservation benefit in bringing the elephants to Australia. They were also extremely difficult to breed in captivity.

However, three years later, the zoo welcomed the first Asian elephant to be born in Australia. The male calf was named Luk Chai. Reflecting his heritage, the name means “my son” in Thai.

On the way to the elephants, I like to pass the giraffes. Their enclosure was built in 1923. It was the year the Country Women’s Association held its first annual conference in Sydney, construction had just started on the Harbour Bridge, and Australia’s first radio station, 2SB, started transmitting.

They say the country started to become more culturally diverse during the years between the First and Second World Wars. Although immigration restrictions remained due to the White Australia policy, more people, especially men from Southern Europe, began to arrive.

The Great Depression was around the corner, but in 1923 the country was continuing to evolve and the zoo with the great view could now house giraffes that once hailed from Africa.

If we veer left at the giraffes, we will eventually meet the zoo’s family of Western Lowland gorillas. They are traditionally found in central Africa, Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. But the male Western Lowland gorilla currently leading his troop is French. His name is Kibali and he came to the zoo from La Vallée des Signes when he was 12 years old.

They say he was initially quite shy. But Zoo staff say they are impressed with Kibali’s developing leadership qualities and are happy with the way he has settled into his new family.

The previous patriarch, Kibabu, was Dutch. He retired in 2013 to make way for the young silverback from France. For Primate Keeper Richard Buzas, “as much as all the keepers admire Kibabu as a near-perfect leader, we know it’s important for him to relinquish the demanding Silverback role and for new genetics to be introduced into the breeding program.” They say he is now living out his retirement years at Mogo Zoo.

Yes, the animals are nice to see, but my favourite part of the zoo is in the backyard to bush precinct. There is a children’s playground where families bring their kids to splash in the water fountain and climb the wooden play area. From babies to older children, the space allows them to run around in the shade with ducks and other backyard animals.

We hear and see the diversity of people in Sydney in that one place. Different parents calling their kids in different languages. Probably all saying similar things.

“Ok! Let’s go. There are other parts of the zoo to see.”

“Awww, just five more minutes?”

I have heard Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, French, English, Cantonese, Italian, German, Hindi there. The kids don’t care what language other kids are yelled at by their parents. They just play.

Via the Daily Prompt: Zoo


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