The Crocodile Hunter's Australia Zoo
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.
September 2006 (Portland, Oregon)
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.
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.
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
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
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
"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
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
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The Crocodile Hunter's Australia Zoo