Featuring wildlife native to Australia, WILD LIFE Sydney in Darling Harbour is a fantastic way to get to know many of the unusual species you might just be lucky enough to encounter in the wild.
There’s no better way to see WILD LIFE Sydney than with a behind the scenes tour, on which your personal fully-qualified guide will give you loads of species-specific facts, answer any questions you might have, regale you with stories about some of the most interesting and charismatic residents and even allow you to touch some of the lizards and snakes. You will also be able to see the food preparation areas and meet some of the additional animals kept out of view of the general public.
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TOP 10 AUSSIE CRITTERS
We saw an amazing diversity of species at WILD LIFE Sydney, some of which I’d never seen before in my life. They were all fascinating to watch, but, after some deliberation, allow me to introduce my favourite Aussie critters.
10. BEARDED DRAGON
One of the species occasionally brought out to meet the public, the bearded dragon is found throughout Australia, and some are even kept as pets.
They have broad, triangular heads and spiny scales around the throat, which can be expanded when the animal feels threatened. They can also change colour in response to temperature or, in the case of the males, during rivalry ‘show downs’.
9. SOUTHERN CASSOWARY
This unusual looking bird is an umbrella species, meaning that lots of other species rely on it. Sadly, their numbers are declining, mainly due to habitat destruction. It’s the third largest bird in the world, after the ostrich and emu. This particular one is called Princess, but is actually a male. It’s very difficult to sex cassowaries, but since he’s so high maintenance, when they discovered he was male, the zoo managers decided to keep his name.
Don’t be fooled by his inquisitive expression. These birds are the most deadly in the world, due to their huge, sharp claws and head casque.
Kookaburras are the largest member of the kingfisher family. They have a distinctive call that can frequently be heard in the Australian bush, as well as suburban and residential areas.
They are carnivorous birds, which will naturally feed on the young of other birds, mice, snakes, insects and small reptiles, but they will also accept handouts from humans and have been known to scavenge meat from unattended barbecues!
7. TASMANIAN DEVIL
Tasmanian devils might look harmless, but they’re known for their ferocity. They have a loud and disturbing screech and have the strongest bite per unit of body mass of any land-dwelling mammalian predator.
Tragically, a facial tumour disease has caused a rapid decline in the numbers of this species since the 1990s and now threatens survival of the species.
WILD LIFE Sydney is partaking in a program to breed Tasmanian devils in captivity and it is hoped that their two residents – Oreo and Big John – will produce offspring that can one day be released back into the wild.
Wallabies and kangaroos are synonymous with Australia. There are a large number of different species, many of which are abundant. In fact, there are more kangaroos than humans in Australia.
The tails of wallabies and kangaroos are extremely powerful. While used mostly for balance and support, they can deliver quite a blow to predators. Their hind legs are also used to administer kicks when an individual feels threatened.
WILD LIFE Sydney houses a large number of snake species, some of which are kept behind the scenes and rotated as part of a show and tell. You can pay $20 for the chance to have your photo taken holding them.
Olivia, the olive python is the largest snake they bring out. She’s quite docile and surprisingly heavy. You can see her in the video at the end of this post.
There are 140 species of land snake in Australia and more of them are venomous than not. Two of those kept at WILD LIFE Sydney are among the top 10 most venomous in the world.
Otherwise known as spiny anteaters, echidnas are one of very few extant species of mammal that lay eggs.
A particularly interesting fact about echidnas is that the males possess a four-headed penis. During copulation, two of the four heads will grow in size and be used to release semen into the female’s two-branched reproductive tract. The male will alternate between which two heads of its penis it uses each time mating takes place.
This Southern hairy-nosed wombat is called Meg. She was hand-raised at WILD LIFE Sydney after her mother was hit by a car.
The keepers at the zoo will put her on a harness and take her for morning runs through the corridors. If you’re lucky, you might see her fast asleep on her back with her legs sticking up in the air.
WILD LIFE Sydney’s only crocodile is called Rex. He’s the biggest captive crocodile in New South Wales, at over 5 metres long. He was removed from the wild after causing quite a bit of trouble when he made a habit of attacking and eating people’s pet dogs.
Once brought into captivity, before he moved to WILD LIFE Sydney, attempts were made to mate Rex, but unfortunately, he’s very territorial and he killed the two successive female crocodiles he was introduced to! Our guide Jess told us that, if he was ever reintroduced to the wild, his homing mechanisms are so good he would be able to find his way back over 200 km.
Definitely the cutest of Australia’s animals, these little fellas sleep for 20 hours a day. You’re lucky to see them move at all, but occasionally, there’s an adorable ear wiggle. WILD LIFE Sydney currently has a one-year-old male, who lives upstairs with the other boys. The female koalas are kept separately in an enclosure in the lobby, and the groups are rotated every now and again.
Koalas have a specially adapted flat bottom to allow them to balance upright in the trees as they sleep. Whenever possible, they also wedge themselves between the branches, but occasionally, they have been known to fall to the ground as they sleep. This rarely affects them and they just head straight back to where they were and fall asleep again.
What’s your favourite? If you’re having trouble deciding, here’s a little video I put together of the whole experience: