The animal kingdom comes to town
Sydney has a wild new attraction
BILBIES forage, pademelons display their red legs, emu chicks sport stripes and trot around side by side in a cute, almost choreographed fashion. The animal kingdom is doing its stuff at the new-look Wild Life Sydney, next to Sydney Aquarium at Darling Harbour.
The venue, formerly Sydney Wildlife World, has been revamped and now presents Australian wildlife in eight distinct habitats, including Kakadu Gorge, Daintree Rainforest and The Outback. Each habitat corresponds to a geographic area and is populated with appropriate animals. To deliver the wow factor, the attraction deploys Rex, an enormous saltwater crocodile measuring more than 5m. Rex is a renegade, a reptilian psychopath with impressively big teeth. He killed the first two breeding females introduced to him on the crocodile farm where he used to live. Rex didn’t get a third chance — he was dispatched to Sydney.
Wild Life Sydney is, understandably, favoured by children and school parties. It’s also proving popular with overseas tourists and Australian visitors, too. In the space of 90 minutes or two hours, you get to traverse spans of landscape that would take weeks or months in the wild. You can snap impressive close-up photos and capture the classic outback shot of red kangaroos lounging against ochre-soil outcrops under gum trees. (Tip: Keep the camera focus tight to eliminate background distractions such as surrounding skyscrapers.)
By the time you reach Wild Life’s dedicated koala habitat, on the rooftop overlooking Darling Harbour, the background doesn’t matter. What’s important is the animals and the staff, who have an obvious rapport.
The most challenging species to deal with during the centre’s refurbishment was one of the smallest. Shifting a bull ants’ nest is tricky; ants resent people messing with their queen. Wild Life’s life sciences manager Mike Drinkwater explains that bull ants are related to wasps and able to swivel their abdomens to deliver a venom-loaded sting that can plunge some people into anaphylactic shock.
Wild Life Sydney conducts guided talks and feeding sessions regularly each day. You can have your photo taken with a koala and, yes, you can pat one.
Apart from its rooftop level, Wild Life Sydney is indoors and airconditioned. Residents include endangered species such as the cassowary, billed as the world’s deadliest bird, possessed of a dagger-like inner claw. Snakes trigger wonder and occasional shudders. ‘‘The inland taipan, world’s most venomous, lives in remote areas and feeds mainly on plague rats,’’ announces a sign. A red-bellied black snake lies coiled like burnished steel; nearby cousins include striped pythons, male and female; a tiger snake and an eastern brown. Visiting fans of Man vs Wild earnestly discuss the deadliness of each.
Unless you are a conservation biologist, or Bear Grylls, you are sure to depart Wild Life Sydney with enhanced knowledge about our unique Australian animals. Peter Needham was a guest of Wild Life Sydney.
A koala at Wild Life Sydney