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The Crocodile Hunter's Australia Zoo

(Reprint from News: April 4, 2002)

April 3, 2002

 

 

I spent two full days in Brisbane, exploring during the day and updating my website at night.  Well, o.k., I also caught an episode of that campy "Babes-in-the-Outback" TV show, McLeod's Daughters, one evening, but I'm not proud to admit it. 

 

 

Crikey, He's Gone...

September 2006 (Portland, Oregon)

I was deeply saddened by the untimely death of Steve Irwin earlier this month.  Steve's irrepressible personality and zest for life was one of the reasons I decided in 2001 to visit Australia.  Like many others, I was stunned by his sudden passing and his death leaves a void that unfortunately no one will ever fill. 

 

During the morning of my second day in Brisbane, I drove a half-hour north of town to visit the Australia Zoo.  If you've ever seen the TV show "Crocodile Hunter" hosted by the ever-cheerful and exuberant (to put it mildly) Steve Irwin, you've probably seen the zoo, because Steve is the zoo's owner and manager.  In fact, I was a bit disappointed not to see Steve and his American wife Terri at the gate greeting visitors with a cheery "G'day," but I figured they had a good excuse, because it was absolutely pouring down cats and dogs -- or maybe in this case, "crocs and joeys" -- when I got there. 

 

The zoo is one of most popular tourist attractions in all of Australia and during my three-hour visit, I got to see some of those cassowaries mentioned earlier, as well as a very lively Tasmanian Devil (something like a wolverine) scurrying around his outdoor pen.  And, yes, the koalas were really, really cute.  By the way, I would've enjoyed meeting Terri because she's from Eugene, Oregon (pop. 100,000), two hours south of Portland and, for about a year in 1989, a city that I called home.

 

I got a chuckle at the zoo seeing Aussies fawning over the kangaroos, and it was obvious to me that many Aussies there had never seen a real, live kangaroo before.  That might sound surprising, since a lot of people around the world think that all Aussies are like "Crocodile Dundee" and eat kangaroo and crocodile meat every night while camping by a billabong.   As I discovered, though, most Australians living on the East Coast have never been to the Outback and hardly any of them have ever been to the Australia's West Coast.  During my travels down the East Coast of Australia, most of the folks I talked to thought I was either very brave or very stupid to have driven the length of the Outback alone.  The attitude seemed to be, "Why would you want to go out THERE?"  I was pretty surprised at how little-traveled most Aussies seemed to be, especially compared to highway-loving Americans.  I'm sure that's because there isn't much to SEE in the Outback, and although I found the Outback pretty interesting, I have to admit that most people probably wouldn't.

 

Perhaps another reason Aussies don't travel around as much as Americans is because of the road system in Australia's rural areas -- including the one-lane paved highways (yes, I said ONE lane) that make driving across the Outback a real thrill (see News: March 16, 2002).  There are only 19 million people in Australia compared to 280 million in the U.S., a country of about the same size, so the road network here in Oz isn't nearly as extensive.  This really hit home while I was driving on the Stuart Highway through the middle of the country and realized that I was on was the only paved road within a thousand miles on either side of it.

 

Anyway, the best part about my visit to the Australia Zoo was the 2 p.m. Amazing Crocodile Show, during which the trainer fed a chicken to a large saltwater crocodile named Barry -- and, in the process, nearly lost part of his hand.  What amused me the most about the Australian Zoo, though, was that the entire staff, all 47 of them, were dressed EXACTLY like Steve and Terri Irwin.  Crikey, that's kind of creepy, mate!

 

2-3279_Steve_Irwin_With_Croc.jpg (53524 bytes)    2-3280_Croc_Show.jpg (41413 bytes)    2-3287_Koala.jpg (62835 bytes)

Above left:  Hey, it's the Crocodile Hunter!  This is at Steve Irwin's "Australia Zoo" near Brisbane.  That's a life-sized cutout of Steve and friend.   

Above center:  Lunchtime in the Australia Zoo.  Every person who works here dresses exactly like the Crocodile Hunter... it's pretty weird.

Above right:  Koalas do exactly two things: look cute and eat eucalyptus leaves.

 

2-3293_Croc.jpg (85676 bytes)    2-3290_Cassowary.jpg (72519 bytes)    2-3295_Steve_Irwin_Dolls.jpg (47730 bytes)

Above left:  "Crikey, mayte, looka the size of 'im!"  At twelve feet in length, this is the biggest salty I saw in Australia.  Too bad I saw it in a zoo.

Above center:  Here's one of those cassowaries that I mentioned earlier (see News: March 25, 2002).  Check out the size of his claws.  I kept a safe distance from this guy.

Above right:  Hey, it's Steve and Terri... and they're multiplying!

 

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