melbourne day 3: kangaroos, wombats, and other creatures / by mmkeyes

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On our third day in Melbourne, we had the chance to visit Healesville Sanctuary, a zoo specializing in native Australian animals. The drive there through the countryside was absolutely gorgeous! Healesville is in the Coranderrk Bushland Reserve--a beautiful, green forest area northeast of Melbourne.

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Inside the sanctuary, we saw ibises all over the park. Check out that beak!

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Pretty soon after our arrival, Brandon and I got to have a koala encounter. Essentially, we got to go and watch a koala sleep because, in case you didn't know, that's pretty much all koalas do. We did see a couple eating some eucalyptus leaves which is pretty action-packed now that I know that koalas sleep 20 hours a day. Australia actually has legislation that protects koalas so that, for every 20 minutes they are touched or handled, they receive three full days of rest. Can we say sweet deal?!

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After our encounter with that flurry ball of zzz's, we went to see the kangaroos. Kangaroos are even cooler than they are weird, just like all Australian animals. Their tails are gigantic, and they use them like a fifth limb.

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Speaking of extra limbs, this little lady was carrying a joey in her pouch which explains the strange tail and foot hanging out of her tummy. The joey is about to get out of its pouch for good, since clearly it's getting too big.

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Walking around the sanctuary was magical in and of itself with the towering eucalyptus trees surrounding all the animal areas and bright green ferns growing beneath them.

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Discovering Australian animals with these two was pretty magical, too. My parents allowed us to keep a wide array of animals growing up which really ingrained a love and appreciation of creatures in us all. By "wide array" I'm talking about anything from dogs to ducks to gerbils to iguanas to turtles.

Next up was the bird show. My dad was pretty pumped for it, and I admit I wasn't quite as excited. However, it was AMAZING! We got to learn about and watch incredible species of birds native to Australia doing neat tricks.

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This last one--Megera--was incredible. And so huge. At one point, when she was standing as she is in the picture below, a little 3 year old boy ran up to touch her. He was such a little pill of a kid and had been causing problems the entire show. Luckily he wasn't hurt by her, but the four of us laughed when we saw an Ibis steal the food out from his fingers later that day. Karma.

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You don't mess with this kind of bird.

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We stayed after to talk to the bird show host for awhile and learned even more cool things about all the birds there. And then we headed to the bird enclosures which are chalk full of colorful species that will sometimes land on your head at random.

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While we admired the birds, a little potoroo paid us a visit. Potoroos are marsupials, like the kangaroo, but much smaller. This one was in love with my dad and cuddled up to his leg.

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It was so cute! All I could think the entire time I was in Australia was how bland U.S. wildlife and nature seems comparatively.Healesville's message to its visitors is to help save wildlife by doing simple things like buying toilet paper made from recycled materials. They have funny signs like "Wipe for wildlife" all over the sanctuary.

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Our next visit was to the reptiles.

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In case you've never watched the Discovery Channel, Australia is home to pretty much all the most poisonous animals on the earth, including all the deadliest snakes. This guy takes the cake in that category:

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On our way out of the reptile exhibit, we happened upon this little tyke--a monitor who will grow another four feet before he's at his maximum.

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  We visited the night critter exhibit after that and also got to see a platypus. Our last stop was to the Tasmanian Devils and the wombats. Tassie devils look harmless enough (and nothing like the Looney Tunes character).

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But they are ferocious. They can eat 40% of their body weight in 30 minutes. When they've eaten, their ears turn red as the blood flow increases during digestion.

Wombats are pretty much the coolest thing on this planet. They are incredibly adorable and big and round, and I want one of my own. They have a bony plate on their rear end that they use as a defense mechanism. They burrow in long holes and, if a predator enters, the wombat will crush the predator against the hole's walls using its rear plate.

But this guy is just sleeping adorably with a wombat stuffed animal.

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Healesville was absolutely a highlight of our entire trip.