Part 2…An environment of dedication, compassion and love at the Cairns Tropical Zoo…

We fell in love with the Pelicans for their beauty, grace and movement.

The Freeman family, locals in the Cairns area, have been instrumental in developing an extraordinary wildlife experience since 1980 with a goal of providing the utmost in conservation and species preservation.

A Pelican show of wingspan.

With a wide array of educational and highly entertaining presentations available that enable visitors to participate in many hands-on and up-close and personal interactions with appropriate wildlife, those visiting the Cairns Tropical Zoo will find themselves enriched from a unique zoo experience.

Peacocks were freely roaming the grounds of the zoo.

In addition, the Freeman family established the private North Queensland Wildlife Trust, which includes not only the Cairns Tropical Zoo but also, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures and Kuranda Koala Gardens. By the development of the trust, funds are raised for the conservation of native species and their habitat.

Even these less than attractive Lizards can be cute in repose.

It is this kind of passion and dedication to wildlife that is exhibited throughout the zoo as Jasmine toured us through many of the areas to see wildlife we’d never seen face to face in any environment throughout our world travels.

Mom or dad makes a comfortable pillow.
A pile of Turtles.

To be able to take numerous photos as shown here without placing our camera into the holes into a tight chain-link fence gave us a feeling of openness and space, certainly enjoyed and appreciated by all of the various wildlife.

Spoonbill, rightfully so named.

Of course, the dangerous animals such as the massive crocodiles that caught our breath, the design of their habitat provided total safety and security while allowing the photo enthusiast full access to those much revered perfect shots as we’re sharing here in both Parts 1 and 2 of the two-day story.

A Wallaby is a small or mid-sized macropod found in Australia and New Zealand. appears to be a miniature Kangaroo.

The snakes including some of the most venomous in the world were safely behind full glass enclosures that still allowed a relatively clear shot as shown in our photos.

When mom got busy in a bit of a scuffle with another Koala, joey, Violet, decided to high tail away from the action.
Of course, not surprisingly, the Koalas captured our hearts. Jasmine was able to take us inside the  “nursery” of the Koala House. For the first time, seeing baby Koalas inside the pouches of their loving mothers was a sight we’d long desired to see. 
Curious as we approached.

The “joey-in-the-pouch” sighting warmed our hearts as well as the other visitors happily snapping photos in the Koala House. Buttercup, an adult Koala, one of Jasmine’s favorites, who’d been rescued by the zoo after losing a leg after being hit by a car, sleepily cuddling in her eucalyptus tree.

It wasn’t unusual to see a variety of species sharing an area as is common in the wild.

Much to our surprise, Koalas can consume as many as 1000 eucalyptus leaves per day. With conservation in mind, the Cairns Tropical Zoo has managed to utilize a means of harvesting leaves from downed branches from the electric company’s clearing underneath power lines and from three dedicated eucalyptus plantations, rather than destroying trees in the forest. 

The Emu is the largest bird native to Australia. We couldn’t seem to get her/his attention when she was busy looking through the fence.

In addition, considerations are made for wildlife that may have originated from a more distinct winter/summer season with seasonal dietary needs. These facts only added to our respect for the zoo’s philosophy of creating a safe, healthy, and comfortable environment for all of its inhabitants.

With the bright sun reflecting on the Komoda Dragon house which is encased in glass for safety, we had a difficult time taking a photo through the glass, this being our best shot.

With our interest in a wide variety of birds throughout the world, we were particularly fascinated with the graceful and majestic pelicans, again with incredibly easy access for our photo taking. 

The Cassowary is the third tallest flightless bird in the world. A relatively shy bird that can be dangerous in the wild when provoked.

It would only be under these special circumstances that we’d have been able to capture such shots as those we’ve included in both yesterday’s and today’s post for which we are very grateful.

After recently posting distant photos of Cockatoos we spotted in Holloways Beach, it was fun to up close and personal in one of the aviaries in the zoo.

We express our heartfelt thanks to the staff at the Cairns Tropical Zoo for “handling” our visit with the same attention to detail and care as they provide for each and every creature habituating in their creative and loving environment including at times, some not-so-invited fly-ins.

The entrance to the zoo and gift shop. 

                                                Photo from one year ago today, July 12, 2014:

It was one year ago today that Tom had a haircut at a salon in Ribeira Brava, Madeira. For more photos and details from that date, please click here.

Part 1…An environment of dedication, compassion and love at the Cairns Tropical Zoo…

It’s ironic that one of our favorite wild animals at the Cairns Tropical Zoo was the Dingo, looking familiar to us as a domesticated dog. However, Dingos are wild animals, and many attempts to domesticate them have failed. 

With expectations in check, we met Jasmine, the Mammal Department Supervisor at the Cairns Tropical Zoo on Tuesday morning. When neither of us has visited a zoo in many years, we found ourselves with mouths agape as Jasmine gave us a private tour that will remain a treasured memory for years to come.

Binturongs are closely related to the mongoose and distantly related to skunks and weasels. They have a distinct odor common in both males and females, similar to that of popcorn which is produced when scent marking for territorial rights and mating. This fellow is named Sari. Binturongs are on the endangered species list.

For world travelers, having spent nine months in Africa, having been on safari on many occasions, we had no idea how much pleasure and joy we’d experience seeing wildlife in a confined environment. With our previous lack of zoo experiences in the past 30 years, we had no idea how times have changed in the zoo industry.

The Wildlife Wedding Chapel on the ground of the zoo is a popular venue for weddings. Please click here for details.

Cairns Tropical Zoo depicts the epitome of progression resulting in the nurturing, love, and compassion of the preservation of many species we’d seldom, if ever, see in the wild during our time in Australia, on and off over a period of almost two years. 

The Koala, Phascolarctos cinereus, or, inaccurately, koala bear, is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia. It is the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae, and its closest living relatives are the wombats.  In most cases, we don’t take photos of the wildlife from behind, but this scene made us smile when we visited the Koala nursery.

Jasmine spent considerable time as the three of us gathered in the Koala Cafe, answering our seemingly endless questions about the zoo, its management, feeding, and care of the vast array of wildlife. 

Check out this Koala face!  Could it be any more adorable?

Afterward, we were all anxious to continue on as she personally escorted us on a tour to see many of the zoo’s precious inhabitants. As a dedicated 10 plus year employee, Jasmine exhibits an enthusiasm one would never expect upon such employment longevity.

This scene took our breath away. This is a mother Koala with her “Joey” which is the name for all marsupial offspring. A Koala Joey is the size of a jelly bean, with no hair, no ears, and is blind at birth. Joeys crawl into the mother’s pouch immediately after birth, staying there until about six months old.

Throughout the tour, we never felt a sense of bored animals confined in small spaces with little to do but sit and watch annoying visitors. Instead, the expertly designed and maintained environments befitting each animal’s natural habitat, created a feeling of openness and freedom, enabling each species to thrive, propagate and live long, healthy lives, enhanced by the constant love and care of the many employees.

The natural bond between moms and their offspring is always precious to observe. Many visitors gathered around this area in awe of the experience.

Such was apparent in Jasmine’s description of each aspect of the zoo, as her eyes twinkled with sheer delight as she introduced us with pride to many of the species from the Komodo Dragons to the wide array of birds in the various aviaries. 

Jasmine, Tom, and Koala mom and Joey, who was named Violet after 10-year, devoted employee Jasmine’s daughter. 

What particularly appeals to us is the fact that the Cairns Tropical Zoo has rescued many wild animals bringing them back to health after severe injuries and illness that would prevent them from safely returning to the wild. Those deemed fit for released is returned to a safe wild environment. 

They were both checking out the action. Koalas eat as much as 1000 eucalyptus leaves per day. 

In addition, the zoo has taken the responsibility to include many endangered species, as well as those that may have been cast aside from private citizens hoping to domesticate an animal such as a Dingo, an animal never intended to be kept as a pet. 

This young Koala ventures away from mom for a moment.

As we often hear, wild animals are just that.  hey aren’t intended to become pets and the cast-offs of irresponsible owners often end up in zoos. Cairns Tropical Zoo welcomes such animals, anxious to provide them with a rich life they so well deserve since most often they cannot be returned to the wild and survive.

Boa Constrictor, safely behind the glass enclosure. There was a Reticulated Boa in the background which was difficult to see in the darkened area.

Much to our delight and good humor, Jasmine explained that oftentimes, a variety of birds and wildfowl including the Pacific Black Duck fly into the zoo’s habitat of other birds deciding on a free meal and “easy ride’’ often staying at their leisure. Nonetheless, these wild birds are fed.

The massive size of numerous Crocodiles in their well secured, but the viewable area is difficult to describe here. Their weight is estimated when it’s impossible to ever get them on a scale. They may weigh upwards of 1000 kg, 2205 pounds. 

The Cairns Tropical Zoo is located only 20 minutes north of Cairns, and 35 minutes south of Port Douglas at Palm Cove on the Captain Cook Highway. With easy free parking and reasonable entrance fees, it’s the perfect venue for both children and adults, tourists, and locals alike. 

It isn’t often we could get quite this close to a Crocodile to have a close-up view of the complex tail and hide.

The wildlife areas are easy to navigate with only a few gradual inclines making it possible for many with limitations to enjoy full access to most areas. For the times of operation, entrance fees, and extensive information about the Cairns Tropical Zoo, please click the links provided.

A smaller female Crocodile sunning with her mouth within close proximity to a larger male.

Tomorrow, we’ll return with Part 2, more photos and information about our visit to the zoo and our many new experiences with the wildlife we’ve never seen in our past worldwide travels.

Like us, Crocs have five digits but, that’s where the similarities end!


Photo from one year ago to July 11, 2014:
The fuzzy green buds on this exquisite orchid were quite a joy to see while on a flower hunt in Madeira. For details, please click here.

Pure joy!…Photos of two of the fledging Laysan Albatross chicks in Kauai…Vinny and Nash…The culmination to our passionate observation…

For the purposes of illustration and the difficulty of determining which bird is Vinny and the other Nash, we’ve taken the liberty of speculating which of the two birds are shown in these photos, although each photo is one of the two. Also, due to the poor internet connection and the number of photos our line spacing may appear inaccurate.
The remaining fuzz doesn’t deter Nash from being ready to go. Only five months old, he’d yet to shed his chick fluff, but the dark lined eyes are very grown-up.
On Saturday morning as we began our day, sipping coffee and getting online Tom asked if I’d seen my email yet. I hadn’t. Instead, I was busy checking photos for the day’s post and contemplating the storyline. 
Vinny awoke this morning and decided, “Today’s the day,” and begins the long walk to the edge of the cliff.

Most days, I have no idea as to our story instead, using the most recent photos to lead the way into the day’s story. Posting with photos each day can be rather challenging at times, especially when we don’t always have enough good photos on file to share.

It’s a long walk for Vinny from the nest to the edge of the cliff.

With today’s scheduled appointment for an interview at the Cairns Tropical Zoo (see this post for details on why we’re going to a zoo) after which we’ll tour the zoo to take many photos of Australian wildlife which we’ll share here in the days to come, we thought having a story and photos to post early in the day would get us out the door on time.

Nash begins to hike from the nest to the cliff’s edge.

At times, we plan ahead by preparing a post a day or two early when we have something specific scheduled in the morning when I usually prepare the post. Luckily, we’re able to schedule the post to automatically upload at a designated time making it possible for it to upload while we’re away.

“This looks scary,” says Nash. “It’s a shame I’m having a bad hair day!”

Today’s story is such the case when Saturday morning’s email from our dear friend Richard in Kauai, sent both of us these awe-inspiring photos of Vinny and Nash as they fledge the nest and head out to sea to fen for themselves.

“So what if I don’t look very grown up! I can do this!”

These amazing photos were taken in the past few days by Bob Waid, albatross expert and photographer, who lives in the special neighborhood in Kauai (along with Richard) which we frequently visited to see the progression of the life cycle of the Laysan Albatross.

“I’m almost there.”

Somehow, from years of experience and sheer luck, Bob was able to take these photos that brought tears to my eyes. Bob Waid wrote the wonderful book on the life cycle and nesting habits of the intriguing Laysan Albatross which we read shortly after our arrival, relishing every photo included in the beautiful story. 

It’s a big commitment, worthy of contemplation.
“I can do this,” says Vinny.

While we lived in Kauai, Hawaii, USA for over four months before taking the cruise to Australia, we had the exquisite opportunity to visit the albatross, often several times each week, from the incubation stage when the many sets of parents were taking turns sitting on their solitary eggs, through the date in early February when the chicks finally hatched.

“Hey Ma, hey Pa! Look what I can do!”

From there, we had the joy of watching the chicks mature as they sat on their nests growing plumper and plumper each day as the parents took turns flying out to sea to feed. 

It’s a whole new world for Vinny and Nash

The parents were often gone for many days, leaving the chick returning to regurgitate the seafood to feed their precious chick. Watching the feeding in itself was a mind-boggling experience, one we treasured along with each step in the growth cycle. 

What a gorgeous young Laysan Albatross, minutes before fledging!
Having had the opportunity to meet both Bob Waid and later, Cathy Granholm, a docent with the Los Angeles Zoo (see this link for some photos, a video, and our story) both of whom live in the neighborhood only added to our extraordinary and memorable experience.
Vinny leaping off the cliff to a new life.

Cathy is the record keeper for the progression and growth of the Laysan Albatross chicks and families.  Tirelessly, she’s wandered through the neighborhood twice daily, spending hours recording the growth and behavior of the chicks, their parents, and yet to mature offspring many of whom return to this magical neighborhood year after year.  

A running start for Nash.
Cathy has managed this daunting task for the past 10 years, making it her way of life for seven to eight months of the year.  What dedication!

On Saturday morning when Tom suggested I immediately check my email with a huge smile on his face, I knew it was something wonderful as opposed to disturbing news of any type.

Almost over the edge!

Opening the message from Richard, my breath caught in my throat and I loudly gasped when I saw the photos as Tom spewed out the words, “It’s the chick named Vinny who is fledging.” 

“Hmm… It looks like I need to try again.”

Then again yesterday morning we found the second batch of photos of Nash fledging sent to us once again by Richard. I’d contacted Bob by email to ask him if he’d give us permission to post his photos. He was thrilled to share them with us and our worldwide readers.

Finally Nash is on his way.

After over four months, (nothing compared to Bob or Cathy’s commitment) of following the growth and progression of the chicks and taking endless photos and videos, the experience had finally come to fruition, even with us now living so very far away.

“Finally, I’m free!”

Having the opportunity to see these photos sent me over the moon in a swoon of joy. For those of our readers who followed the albatross journey with us, who perhaps tired of our constant comments, and photos, humor me one more time and check out these photos knowing they are posted with a love of wildlife and a passion for the mystery of life itself.

Vinny takes flight!

We both want to thank Bob, Cathy, and our friend Richard for introducing us to this extraordinary annual event that magically worked out perfectly during the time of our lengthy stay in Kauai. 

“Weee… This is fun!”

By the time you see this post, we’ll be on our way to see the wildlife of Australia. Although, we’d have preferred for the opportunity to see the animals in their natural habitat, as we’d watched the Laysan Albatross for months and as we experienced in both Kenya and South Africa, we’re grateful for this inside look into life in this environment.

Vinny’s off to his new life at sea.

Although the Cairns Tropical Zoo may be a controlled  environment, we have no doubt that the wildlife is nurtured with the care, compassion, and expertise of many dedicated individuals who appreciate each and every creature

Check out that wingspan on a five-month-old Laysan Albatross chick Nash as heads out to sea.

Most of all, as we wind down our story of this memorable experience, we want to express our love for the Laysan Albatross parents and chicks for giving us the glorious experience of witnessing a vital part of your life that in essence, has changed ours.

Off to the sea, perhaps to return to the neighborhood when they mature in four to five years to have their own chicks to nurture and love.

The last video we took of the albatross before we left Princeville, Kauai.

                                               Photo from one year ago today, July 7, 2014:

One year ago today, we’d booked an Australian cruise on the Celebrity Solstice, a ship on which we’ve sailed in the past on January 5, 2016, a mere six months away. How the time flies! For more details on this cruise, please click here.