24 May 2013
By KATE CLIFFORD
"I JUST want to squeeze its lips and hug it." Terry Irwin gushed like a proud new mum when she saw the newest member of the Australia Zoo family: a 70kg baby boy rhino.
Born on May 4, he is far from small but is "absolutely adorable", Terri said yesterday.
"I am just in love."
The new rhino is the second born at the zoo since the start of the year as part of an ambitious breeding program to save the African species.
As well as introducing the arrival yesterday, Terry also announced that a five-year-old giraffe named Rosie was expecting her first child at the end of the year.
The newborn will be the first giraffe born at a Queensland zoo.
Terry said she was proud to see Steve’s African dream coming true.
"This has been a dream of Steve’s for many years," she said.
"It was part of our 10-year business plan back in 2006, to be able to have an Africa section and help protect African animals in the wild.
"The fact that we have giraffe is amazing and breeding them is a huge accomplishment. It is important to have this breeding program, especially for rhinos because they are doing it tough in the wild."
22 May 2013
THE Federal Opposition’s tourism spokesman has urged operators to "hunt as a pack" to secure maximum return for the local tourism industry.
Bob Baldwin was invited by the LNP candidate for Fisher Mal Brough, to take a helicopter flight to get a clear impression of what the region has to offer.
"You have an amazing vista. I mean travelling through the hinterland, over the dam, down over the coast, on the sand, the top end of Bribie Island, I’ve got to tell you it’s very very picturesque," Mr Baldwin said after touching down at Australia Zoo.
"You just need to sell it a little bit better. You need to work together as a team or, as I term it, hunt as a pack, and make sure that you people know, beyond your own community, what you actually have here as tourism assets.
"Your competition is not the beaches as against the hinterland, one enterprise against the other; your competition is other areas, other regions, and other international destinations like Fiji and Bali."
Mr Baldwin said the region provided a wide range of experiences, from the beach through to natural attractions and adventure tourism, as well as staples like shopping.
"There needs to be a symbiotic relationship with all operators that people might come here as a day destination from the Brisbane accommodation market and what we need to do is up-sell them from one experience to come back and try another experience, so you get people coming back."
Terri Irwin, of Australia Zoo, said tourism was an ideal industry for generating income without destroying anything.
"It’s a great way to show what you’ve got and still keep things intact," Ms Irwin said.
3 May 2013
THOSE who applied for the job of tiger handler at Australia Zoo have their work cut out for them as 850 others are gunning for the role.
Applications to work with the big cats in the Tiger Temple at the Beerwah tourist attraction closed on Monday.
Head of tigers Giles Clark said the HR team was creating a shortlist of resumes, some of which come from as far afield as South Africa and Japan.
"We’re excited that so many people want to work with our big cats but want to make sure we find the right person for the role," he said.
The previous tiger handler position became available when the former handler retired after 13 years of service.
30 April 2013
By PATRICK WILLIAMS
ROBERT and Bindi Irwin have taken on their fair share of crocodiles.
But alligators - well that’s a whole other story.
With their mother Terri by their side, the young Irwins participated in their first alligator jump at Australia Zoo yesterday.
The three of them took on six-foot Macca so they could move him to another part of the zoo - a massive alligator enclosure due to open later this year.
The Daily was invited along to follow the Irwins’ jump and Macca’s journey to his new home.
"You get nervous every time before something like this," Bindi said before the jump.
"I get butterflies. I think it’s a good thing, though. The day you don’t get them is the day you don’t get nervous and don’t care as much."
Terri was first up.
"Robert, what I’m going to do is go for its head and I’m just going to pin it down... and you grab his back legs," she said. "Ready?"
Terri jumped in behind to hold the struggling alligator down.
Robert swooped in seconds later to hold Macca’s back legs off the ground.
Bindi quickly taped the alligator’s jaw and then blindfolded the creature.
Macca quickly calmed down but the Irwins weren’t about to let down their guard and held him down until they were ready to move.
After ensuring his safety, the Irwins placed Macca in the back of a van for the short journey to his new home.
After carrying him to the water’s edge, the Irwins unbound his mouth, uncovered his eyes, and let him slip off to join a small group of other male alligators.
The lagoon, located towards the back of the Beerwah tourist attraction, will be home to about 30 alligators by the time it opens.
Bindi and Robert were jubilant at the completion of their first alligator jump.
"It was so cool. They’re actually so different from crocs," Bindi said.
Robert was most excited.
"It was so, so cool," he said.
"I have jumped crocs but alligators are so different.
"They’re not as explosive. Alligators are more mechanical, they just walk off with you. I had a great time."
I had the gloves, the alligator had the cloaca
THE Irwins had Macca the alligator pinned down and ready to be moved to his new home. But there was just one more thing they needed to do.
"I think Pat should be the one to do the sexing," Bindi said with such cheerfulness that I figured she was joking.
Turns out, she was dead serious.
Alligators have no external sex organs, they tell me, and the only way to check is to put your finger in its cloaca.
They already knew it was a male, but they like to double check whenever they get a chance like this.
"If you feel something inside that means it’s a male," I’m told.
Up until this point I’d been an innocent bystander enjoying my spot on the sideline as the Irwins wrestled with Macca.
I was a bit hesitant.
I mean, I was hardly dressed for the part - my business pants and button-up shirt looked so out of place in the presence of khaki.
Then again, I’d be crazy to pass up the opportunity to be part of something so unique.
They gave me a glove and I snapped it on as though I was about to perform surgery.
Then they lubricated my right index finger and told me to rub it in.
Everyone let out a laugh - mine was a bit nervous.
I got down on my knees as they lifted Macca up slightly on one side.
"Put your finger in there gently," someone said.
Simple enough, I thought.
My finger went in about a centimetre before I felt something round - it was like a small ball.
"It’s a boy!" I shouted out, like some doctor to the parents of a newborn.
20 April 2013
By JANINE HILL
AFTER two years of recovery and rehabilitation from mistreatment, Dusty the sulphur-crested cockatoo had flown free for only six weeks before he was shot.
He is recovering in the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital after surgery to remove a pellet embedded in one of the bones in his leg, but his life is still in danger.
His injury has shattered wildlife carer Claire Smith, who spent two years helping him regain the strength and confidence to be a wild bird after he was stolen as a nestling and his wings brutalised to keep him grounded.
"I went to see him and to see that bird back in a cage, looking very miserable, it broke my heart," she said.
Ms Smith said Dusty was found wounded in Churchill St, Palmwoods, this week.
She said that although the pellet was removed from his leg on Thursday, there was a chance that Dusty might have nerve damage which would prevent his return to the wild, or worse, necessitate euthanasia.
Ms Smith is also worried about another cockatoo, Polly, who was released with Dusty and has not been seen.
"He had come back from a pretty awful start in life and the same with Polly," she said.
"She had a pretty awful wing injury which took months to get right.
"It was amazing to see the two birds flying free. They were really, really good for each other.
"It’s no small feat to get these birds back flying and then someone does this."
Ms Smith said she had come across other examples of wildlife that had been shot, including other parrots that had come into her care.
She said Australia’s wildlife was part of what made the nation special.
Tough penalties should b meted out to anyone who deliberately injured or killed wildlife to deter others from mistreating native animals, she said.
Ms Smith said Dusty’s plight had attracted attention on her Facebook page, Australian Wildlife News.
"It’s very comforting and it’s very sad at the same time because you just can’t ignore that Dusty’s been shot," she said.
Anyone with information on Dusty’s shooting should phone Palmwoods police station on 5445 0749.
If you find an injured native animal, phone the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital 1300 369 652, Wilvos on 5441 6200, or Wildcare on 5527 2444.
17 April 2013
By KATHY SUNDSTROM
TOOTHACHE can make us feel beastly at the best of times.
And if you find yourself being attacked by a tiger in the wild, toothache could be at the root of the anger.
Thankfully, the risks of this happening at Australia Zoo have been reduced after staff discovered 112kg Sumatran tiger Ranu had a broken tooth.
Dr Gary Wilson, from Advanced Animal Dentistry in Brisbane, performed root canal surgery on Ranu yesterday to save the tooth and Ranu from further agony.
Dr Wilson said tigers, like humans, experience extreme pain from bad and broken teeth.
The difference is, they don’t quite know how to verbalise the problem.
"The history books suggest tigers may become man-killers because of the pain from something like a bad tooth," he said.
"This causes them to pick easier targets, like humans.
"We’ve noticed military work dogs that have a broken tooth drop their bite."
Initially, it was feared Ranu’s broken tooth, an incisor, might have to be extracted.
But when no infection was found, the root canal surgery became an option.
Nine-year-old Ranu had had an unblemished dental record.
"This is the first time he has ever had to have an anaesthetic," tiger den superviser Giles Clark said.
Getting a 112kg tiger even one with a friendly nature like Ranu to the dentist’s chair can have its challenges.
This is why Mr Clark took no chances. Ranu was anaesthetised with a tranquiliser dart from a "blowpipe" in his tiger enclosure.
"He didn’t really know what happened," Mr Clark said.
"He turned around to look at the dart and then fell asleep."
When he wakes up, though, he is bound to have an enormous headache.
17 April 2013
By KATHY SUNDSTROM
WANTED: a big cat lover, physically fit, with a view to long-term commitment.
Err, please note, you need to love big cats as well as being a big lover of cats to be pawfect for the job.
Australia Zoo is advertising for a tiger handler to join the crew working with the big cats at the Tiger Temple.
Tiger den supervisor Giles Clark said the best person for the job did not necessarily have to have years of experience or relevant tertiary education.
"We are looking for the right type of person and this won’t necessarily be a person with all sorts of academic qualifications," he said.
"Previous animal experience would be an advantage, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be with tigers or big cats."
What the zoo needs is someone who is "confident, but not over-confident".
"We don’t want some sort of egomaniac," Mr Clark said.
"We need someone with a level-headed assertiveness.
"And they need to be fit and fairly strong."
This qualification is not in case the person might need to run away quickly - they wouldn’t stand a chance against one of the big cats.
It is to meet the physical demands of the job.
"It might look glamorous, but there is also a lot of cleaning, scrubbing, hosing and preparing food that is involved," Mr Clark said.
"The person who gets the job will be lucky in that we have a very hands-on relationship with our tigers."
Australia Zoo is not looking for a fly-by-nighter.
"We need someone who will be committed, passionate and dedicated," Mr Clark said.
The previous tiger handler position became available when the former handler retired after 13 years of service and 1200 applications were received for the position.
9 April 2013
By NICOLE FUGE
KAITLYN knocks back a 100ml carton of milk - a fitting distraction from the ultrasound probe rubbing her swelling belly.
The five-year-old Sumatran tiger is pregnant with her first litter and will make Australia Zoo history when she gives birth in June.
Her cubs will be the first to be born at the Beerwah zoo.
Australia Zoo head tiger supervisor Giles Clark said tigers had a short gestation period, about 110 days.
"An average litter is about three or four, but they can have one or as many as six or seven," he said.
Mr Clark said Sumatran tigers, from Indonesia, were the last remaining island tigers, with about 500 left in the wild.
"There are lots of pressures pushing not only tigers, but other species of wildlife, to the brink of extinction in Sumatra," he said.
"We have habitat destruction, but they are also being poached ... their bones and body parts and skins are still in demand for Chinese and Asian medicines."
About 18 months ago, Kaitlyn was paired with 18-year-old male Ramalon as part of a co-ordinated captive breeding program.
"We had to play matchmaker a little bit," Mr Clark said.
"It was a little bit of a shock to his system."
Mr Clark said Kaitlyn was genetically valuable because her bloodline was not represented anywhere else in captivity, except with her brother and sister who are also at Australia Zoo.
2 April 2013
THE new star of Nim’s Island says it’s an honour to take over the titular role from Abigail Breslin in the sequel to the popular 2008 children’s film. Bindi Irwin, daughter of late wildlife hero Steve Irwin, has taken over the reins in Return To Nim’s Island, out now in cinemas nationwide.
"I’m so excited, it’s such a wonderful film," Irwin told The Cairns Post. "I remember watching the first Nim’s Island and it was amazing, so to star as Nim in the second movie is such an honour. I’m thrilled."
The Queensland-based wildlife hero says a few of her friends from Australia Zoo even came along for the ride.
"They say never work with children and animals, well the funny thing is that I’m a child working with animals," she giggled.
"(Having the Australia Zoo animals) was kind of like having the family on set. They did a great job, they were so good around the cameras."
1 April 2013
By ALYSSA BRAITHWAITE
Between takes at WHO’s Sydney photo shoot on March I3, Bindi Irwin, in a white sundress, with her olive skin lightly made up and honeyed waves of hair framing her features, draws a double take from a passerby. At 14, she’s no longer the little girl with crimped pigtails and a gap-toothed smile. "It’s funny because I guess I have grown up a little bit," says Bindi, who has graduated from the small screen to make her feature-film debut in Return to Nim's Island. "My voice has deepened a little. I don’t sound like I’m on helium anymore."
But while she concedes "it’s fun to dress up and be a bit of a girl" every now and again, Bindi is still her father’s daughter: "Khaki is my chosen colour - it’s not just a colour, it’s an attitude."
It’s been more than six years since Bindi lost her dad, "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. The wildlife crusader was 44 and Bindi 8 when he was fatally pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while filming near Port Douglas, Queensland, on Sept. 4, 2006. Just over two weeks later, she was given a standing ovation after delivering a eulogy to a crowd of 5,000 and a global TV audience of more than 300 million.
It’s hardly been a typical childhood for Bindi and her brother Robert, 9, who live with mother Terri, 45, at their home at Australia Zoo, in Beerwah, Queensland. Birthdays, for exanple, tend to be marked by wild animal experiences. For her 10th, Bindi was allowed to feed a saltwater crocodile for the first time. "It was probably the biggest moment in my entire life," she recalls, her brown eyes wide.
"You grow up watching your mum and dad feeding salties, so it’s kind of like graduating from croc school."
Bindi and Robert are schooled by correspondence, with tigers or elephants occasionally stopping by their outdoor classroon. Bindi, whose favourite subject is English, is a "straight-A student," Terri tells WHO. By keeping her schooling flexible she has been able to fit in filming commitments for shows such as Bindi the Jungle Girl, Bindi's Bootcamp, Steve Irwin's Wildlife Warriors and the 2010 DVD Free Willy: Escape from Pirate's Cove. So when she was approached to star in Return to Nim's Island, the sequel to 2008’s Nim's Island, which starred Abigail Breslin as a girl trying to save her island paradise home from developers, it was a perfect fit.
"I’ve done a little bit of acting in the past, hut nothing to this scale," she says. "I’m really excited about my first theatre-release movie."
Working with costars including John Waters, Toby Wallace, a couple of sea lions and a bearded dragon on the action-adventure flick was "such a wonderful experience," says Bindi, who praises the movie's "beautiful message" about family, conservation and wildlife. "Nim’s trying to save her island from development, and in real life at the moment I’m trying to protect a place called the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Far North Queensland, which is under threat of being strip-mined for bauxite. So I understood where Nim was coming from."
Growing up with parents passionate about animals and the environment (US-born Terri ran a wildlife rehabilitation centre before she met Steve), it’s no surprise that for Bindi "conservation and wildlife is kind of in my blood." She was raised in front of the camera (Terri was even filmed giving birth to her) and that’s something Bindi feels grateful for, "especially after losing Dad." In quiet moments, she and Robert "watch Dad’s DVDs and all these memories come flooding back," says Bindi. Her brother, she reports, is keen to emulate his father: "He studies Dad so carefully."
Determined to honour Steve’s 1ife, the tight-knit family deemed Nov. 15 Steve Irwin Day. "Time, I don’t think, heals wounds, it just kind of changes things," reflects Bindi. "So you're not desperately sad every day, but there’s always a piece of your heart that’s missing and you’ll never get back."
Watching her father in action is a "nice reminder of whv you’re doing what you’re doing, because everything I do in life is to make Mum and Dad proud," says Bindi. "I want to make sure his legacy lives on and never dies." Terri sees "a lot of Steve" in her teenage daughter: "She is very sweet and lovely, and very determined," she says. "When she grows up, she will be a force to be reckoned with."
She might be a self-proclaimed wildlife warrior and a "girl on a mission," but there’s more to Bindi than her beloved khakis. She’s "obsessed with books" (everything from Wendy Orr’s novels to The Teachings of Buddha, which she is reading now). She cooks almost every day - stir fries are a specialty - and is a keen surfer. She is terrified of scary movies but enjoys Modern Family and loves singing and dancing along to the Veronicas, Jessica Mauboy and, thanks to her dad’s influence, AC/DC.
As for finding a boyfriend, spending time with rhinos and giraffes is still higher on the priority list for Bindi, who turns 15 on July 24. "I have friends that are girls and friends that are boys. Why make things complicated?" she says with a laugh, though she adds that one day she would like to have a family.
In the meantime, she lhas a budding acting career to tend to. Chris Brown, the producer of Return to Nim's Island (which opens nationally from March 25), believes Bindi has real potential in the movie industry and "has matured into an amazing young actress." But if that’s the path she chooses to go down, it won’t be the glitz and glamour of Hollywood that lures her. She doesn’t have any celebrity crushes and her favourite superhero is still her dad. "I love filming, because with filming I’m able to bring my message of conservation to a wider audience," she says. "So in the future I’d love to broaden my horizons and see where my film career takes me, and I’m really excited about it. But wildlife and conservation is where my heart lies." It’s a sentiment that wouldn't surprise Steve if he could see his girl today, according to Terri: "Steve used to say, 'I think Bindi’s going to be a much bigger deal than I ever will be.’"
Bindi's spreading the word
When she’s not studying, filming or working at Australia Zoo, Bindi is trying to initiate discussions on the issues that most concern her. "I want to start talking about problems that people seem to be avoiding, like overpopulation and the non-consumptive use of wildlife," she says. Bindi was recently asked to write an essay for Hilary Clinton's e-journal, in which she urged action on overpopulation. But when it was returned to her heavily edited, she pulled it from publication. "I was really sad," she says. "I always say, the true test of freedom of speech is when someone says something that you don't like." Is there a politician in the making in Bindi? "Maybe!"