Crikey Mate, this was one of the parts of my trip that I had been looking forward to for a while. I had often watched Steve Irwin on the National Geographic channel and admired his brave and fearless conservation and educational TV programs with delight and astonishment at his recklessness near ferocious animals. I was felt like a young kid again anticipating the visit to his Zoo about 100km or an hour or so bus ride out of Brisbane.
I had an early start from Roma Transit centre on a bus tour that took us through the spectacular Glass Mountains which are a series of steep-sided volcanic plugs which dominate the landscape of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. According to science, they were formed of rhylite and trachtyte, lavas which hardened inside the vents of tertiary volcanoes that have been greatly reduced by about 25 million years of erosion. The Aboriginal locals of course have a different way of explaining the scientific formation – Tibrogargan (364m high), the father and Beerwah (555m – highest peak) the mother, had a number of children. Coonowrin (377m high – narrowest and most dramatic of all the volcanic plugs) was the eldest, Tunbubudla were the twins (293m and 312m), Coochin (235m), Ngungun (253m), Tibberoowuccum (220m), Miketeebumulgrai (199m) and Elimbah (129m).The legend tells of Tibrogargan noticing that the sea was rising and calling out to Coonowrin to help his pregnant mother gather the young children together so that the family could flee from the rising sea. Coonowrin ran away in fear and Tibrogargan, incensed by his son`s cowardice, followed and hit him so hard with a club that his neck was dislocated. When the seas retreated the family returned to the plains. Conowrin, teased about his crooked neck and ashamed of his behaviour, went to Tibrogargan and asked for forgiveness but the father just wept with shame. Conowrin then approached his brothers and sisters to ask forgiveness but they too could only weep with shame, thus explaining the area`s many small streams. Tibrogargan then called Conowrin and asked why he had failed to help Beerwah. He explained that he felt she was big enough to look after herself, though he did not know she was pregnant. Tibrogargan then turned his back on his son and still gazes out to sea today, refusing to look at his son who forever hangs his crooked neck and cries. Beerwah, the mother, is still pregnant, as it takes time to give birth to a mountain.Captain James Cook was the first European to see the mountains in May 1770 and called them the Glass Mountains as they resembled molten glass. The name stuck from there on in. Around the mountains are lots of fruit growing regions that produce a number of varied and exotic fruit and veg for the region ranging from Ginger to Chocolate Pudding Fruit (i lie not and actually tasted one on the journey home! very nice!!).
We eventually arrived at the zoo around 10.30am and Steve Irwin (more commonly known as the Crocodile Hunter) was there to great us as a memorial on the way into the park. Steve was best known for his affection with the apex predators (snakes, sharks and crocs) however he was ultimately a conservationist and Australia Zoo was first established in 1971 to re-house animals that were either wounded or faced extermination due to commercial development. His wacky antics and unparalleled enthusiasm is what people probably remember him best for however he also set up Wildlife Warriors, a global conservation network which sets out to educate people through factual info and fun so future generations can help endangered species remain on our planet.
The story behind Australia Zoo and the Crocodile Hunter dates all the way back to the 1970s, when one enthusiastic herpetologist, Bob Irwin (Steve`s Dad), and his Wildlife Warrior wife, Lyn, opened the Beerwah Reptile Park on four acres in a tiny town in Queensland. Australia Zoo is now set on over 70 acres of Australian natural bushland, and with over 1000 animals As you can see the place has grown somewhat!As most of you know Steve was killed whilst filming stingray in Port Douglas (nr Cairns) on 4th Sept 2006, and the memorials to to the late great Steve are very touching and the memorials come from around the world. One comment that was written was very apt – “other people talked about it, Steve did it. RIP Steve may your good work continue, you are a true Eco warrior” – a true legend – you beaut..
Apart from the sadness the Zoo is a fantastic arena to see many native a feral animals. The zoo mainly concentrates on the he apex predators however it had a number of other species to attract a wider audience. There are so many animals ranging from Roos, Koalas (there are loads of these adourable creatures here), Elephants, Tigers, Lemurs, Possums, Wombats, Reptiles and birds to name but a few. The 6 hrs I spent there was spent in a daze of facts and figures about the various animals. If you do go there I would suggest that you take a guided tour with one of the keepers, although there is a slight cost to this the in depth knowledge these guys give you is unsurpassed.
The zoo continually enforces the the ethics and need for conservation for our dying planet, however I felt that some parts of the zoo were a little commercialized (Bindi – Steve`s daughter – has her album continually played around some parts of the zoo and the shops are awash with her latest DVD`s) but putting that aside the day was well worth the visit and I was not disappointed one little bit.If you love animals and are not too put off by seeing them in zoo`s then Australia Zoo is a great way to see the animals up close andpersonal. The day was also made better in the fact that I went there when the kids were back at school!! A real informative, enjoyable and tiring (I must have walked around 6 miles!!) day out, a must for anyone near Brisbane. May Steve`s work live on…