Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Australian Wildlife Hospital...

I can't seem to leave the zoo... After a couple of weeks volunteering in the animal park, I decided to volunteer a week in the new Australian Wildlife Hospital located on the grounds of the Australia Zoo and sponsored, in part, by the zoo and the Steve Irwin family. The hospital, dedicated a year ago in memory of Steve's mother, Lyn, sees about 10,000 wildlife patients per year - all at no cost to the animals or their rescuers! There is a full-time staff of 26 animal care professionals and four wildlife veterinarians, including over a hundred volunteers donating their time throughout the year.

They have an on-call, animal rescue team that will respond to any wildlife injury within a 50-mile radius. The hospital also works with local volunteer animal rescue groups and individuals as well as wildlife rehabilitators and other caregivers who provide for injured animals throughout the Queensland area. They rescue nuisance crocs, treat sick koalas, save tangled trutles and even rehabilitate injured bats! Today, when we toured the ICU there were a couple of koalas that had been hurt by a dog and hit by a truck, a turtle that had been hit by a car, and a fruit bat with a broken wing.

I was cleaning koala enclosures today, washing floors, replacing eucalytus branches, etc.; there are four koala buildings able to house 50-60 koalas. There are a half dozen orphans that had to be hand-raised because their mums where hit by cars when they were still in her pouch. They are so small and adorable. We try not to interact too much with them because they are released back into the wild as soon as they are able.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

This blog is for Sadie...

Hello Miss Sadie... today was my last day volunteering at the zoo. :-(
I was assigned to help the 'big cats' department! My job wasn't very fancy. I did raking in the morning. Then I cleaned all the dishes from the tiger's morning feeding. There are eleven tigers in all; four adults and seven cubs. (But the cubs are as big as the adults!) The largest cub weights 300 lbs., and he's only two years old.

After that we had to prepare their food for tomorrow. Each tiger gets a certain amount of food depending on their size. The tigers get meat for their dinner. In the afternoon there was a demonstration with six of the tiger cubs playing together... chasing toys and jumping in the pool.
It's a good workout and afterwards they're ready for a nap! (See picture above.)

I was not able to get close to the tigers because it takes a couple of months for them to get used to someone new. But I did get to watch them outside the enclosure. I asked the zookeepers, (there are six zookeepers who take care of the tigers,) to take some pictures with my camera for me. They did a good job, didn't they!

Bye, Sadie!
Aren't you glad there are no scary spiders in this blog?!?
Only cute tigers. Click on the pictures to make them bigger and cuter!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Roo Heaven...

A couple of the 'girls'. Kangaroos are not overly affectionate, but they do tolerate little kids pulling at their ears and will eat from your hand.

I spent the day in Roo Heaven today; with the grey kangaroos. I'm not sure how many there are in the enclosure because they don't sit still long enough to count them. They are all girls. The males are kept 'off-exhibit,' in a different part of the park. It's one way to control the population. In fact, many of the animals on display... mammals, that is, are females for the same reason. They do have a breeding program at the zoo. They have to keep track of 'family' lines to be sure they get the right genetic mix when they do breed.

A couple of times a day, a guest will ask, "How can you tell, which roo's who?" Well, I only know one by sight... that's Floppsie, but that's because she's carrying around a baby roo in her pouch. The baby's name is Fraggles. The zookeepers know half of them by sight. For the rest, they paint one of the big toe nails (of the back legs) with a different color nail polish – using 'rad' colors: neon blues, bright yellows, glitter purples and teals, etc. – that seems to work well; plus it keeps the guests wondering?!?

Tomorrow is my last volunteer day at the zoo. :-( I'll be working with the 'big cat' team - tigers and cheetahs. (No lions yet, but they're coming soon.) I won't be able to work directly with the animals, but I'll be working behind the scenes which I'm excited about!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ripper Reptiles...

This is Igloo, an aldabran tortoise who's 32 years old. Tortoises can live a very long time! Harriet, one of the oldest living tortoises, was 175-years-old when she passed away at the zoo a few years ago. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5109342.stm

Here I'm giving Goliath a good rubbing all over. They stretch their necks way out and stand up nice 'n tall for a massage! He weighs about 300 pounds and is very gentle and friendly.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tango with Teela...

Zookeepers do a morning inspection of all the animals, including Teela.

I said to the zookeepers, "You guys can see that she's 'foaming at the mouth,' right? And you want to get up really close to her... ? Alright, I'll do it!"

I was with the Exotics team again today so I thought I'd show you one of my buddies, Teela. She's a dromedary camel and very friendly. The very kind zookeepers suggested I get up real close to Teela for a good photo. If you know a little about camels, you may know that the word "mouthwash" is not in their vocabulary and they have very bad breath. Anyway, of course I made a face and a fuss about the fact that she was kinda slobbery, (as all camels are.) But, being a good sport, I said, "Come on, Teela, give me a good smooch!" (Little did the zookeepers know that being able to smell Teela's "bad breath" was not in my répertoire!) They were impressed at my good-natured stoicalness!

Teela has a very soft nose and big lips; she has long lashes and big dark eyes; and she's very charming. I think she's sweet on me!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This blog is for Will...

This is Grotty, a Southern Australia Wombat.
The sneakers belong to Kristen, I'm not sure where she's from.

Hi, Boo... Uncle Jeff took a couple of pictures for you. These are pictures of a Southern Wombat going for a walk. Her name is Grotty. Do you see what I mean when I say she looks like a very large guinea pig? Don't you think so? Anyway, she doesn't walk very fast and she stops to smell everything. I think she's kinda cute... :-)
Bye, William!

Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you, I have a really cool picture of a spider for you too. It's at the bottom of this blog. I made the picture really little so Mom doesn't get too scared. If you click on the picture, you'll see a bigger picture and you can see that the spider has many eyes!!! I think, maybe eight?
Bye, Uncle Jeff!

Grotty is saying Hi to one of the other zookeepers.

Zookeeper Kristen and cute wombat, Grotty.

Warning: Spider Picture Below.

Warning: Spider Picture Below.
Stop here if you are scared!

Warning: Spider Picture is right here:
OK, you've come this far... just 'click' on the picture to make it bigger!
How many eyes do you think she has?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Alexandria Beach, Noosa

Alexandria Bay Beach is located in the Noosa National Park. It's a 2.3 km hike to the beach, so it is less visited than the other two beaches in Noosa - Sunshine Beach and Main Beach. Today, I had the beach almost to myself.
It wasn't long before the clouds cleared.

Please, keep all jealous comments about my straw hat to yourselves.
It's approved Aussie headwear for the beach and it was a mere
$5.99 ($4.20 US) at K-Mart!

The water is actually clean and clear, but the surf is strong and it stirs up the sandy bottom as it comes in to shore, making part of the waves appear brown.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Truth in advertising...

Two of my buddies at the Landsbourgh Pines Park where I'm staying.

It's just as they say on the Travelocity commercials:
"Gnomes never roam alone!"

Or is it... "Gnomes never roam far from home?"; which wouldn't make sense for a website promoting global travel?"

It must be: "You're never alone when you roam far from home and bring two extremely heavy, poorly-painted, concrete gnomes with you; one older and wiser with a grey beard and the other slightly shorter and younger, full of 'piss and vinegar;' to help with the luggage."

Yeah... I think that's what the Travelocity ad says...?!?

Can you tell it's my day off from the Zoo?
(I get Monday and Tuesday off, then I'm on for another five-day stretch. I took a peek at the schedule and I meet the Big Cats and the Reptiles next week!)

Koalas.... What's not to love!

The koalas receive routine physical exams from their zookeepers.
(Secretly, I think the keepers can't wait to give them a hug!)

After their weight-check and physicals, the koalas enjoy a good snuggle :-) from Becky and Robyn.

A sip of water after a dose of vitamins and formula, from zookeeper, Rebecca.
Koalas actually drink very little water. They get moisture from the eucalyptus leaves they eat. They also sleep 18 hours a day. (There's not much energy in a eucalyptus leaf!)

Ahhhh... back to looking cute and cuddly. :-)
They do that soooooo well, don't they?
And they feel everybit as soft as they look!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

DJ the White Rhino...

Today, Megan assigned to me the ‘Exotics’ department… exotic mammals that is. The day started off with sprucing up Teela’s enclosure. Teela is the zoo’s dromedary camel. After that task, it was on to cleaning Roxy and Kit’s den (the zoo’s two foxes). Barbara said, “It’s not unusual for volunteers to find the smell of the fox’s den a bit overwhelming. It’s stronger than the smell of a wet dog!” I said, “Then I’m the right person for the job; because I can’t smell a darn thing!”

When the den was cozy and refreshed, it was off to the pony rides… yes, that’s right, pony rides. (It’s a zoo… you’ve got to have something for the little kids.) My task was to fit the kids with the proper helmet for the pony ride (and entertain them while they were waiting for their turn to ride.) I’m surprised I enjoyed it so much… I was really getting into it with the kids.

2 pm was the Croc Show in the Crocoseum where 'vollies' help direct guests to their seats and make sure the stadium is safe for the show. Reptiles and exotic birds, as well as the crocs, are part of the show. Then it was back to the pony rides until the end of the day.

DJ and me.

When it came time to transport the ponies back to their paddock (a few kilometers away), Lucy, one of the zookeepers said, “Come with us, Jeff. We’ll introduce you to DJ, one of the zoo’s white rhinos!” (The rhinos are not on display yet; their enclosures are part of the African Savannah area and will be ready in about a year.) What a treat!!! I got to see and touch and feed a two-ton white rhino. They are so impressive and beautiful in size and stature. Zookeeper, Deb, went out of her way to coax DJ (with some alfalfa-like hay) over to me so I could view him up close and feed him. I was very grateful to the zoo staff as they took time at the end of a very busy Saturday to make this special encounter possible for me!

Tomorrow I’m on Koala duty...

Close up of DJ, a two-ton white rhino.

Zookeeper, Deb, bribing DJ with sweet grass, over for me to meet.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Zoo - Day 1...

The 'vollie' uniform... official hat with sporty shirt.

I'm no "Croc Hunter,"... but I do get to wear this official volunteer shirt and hat while I'm picking up poo!

After our 8:30 am orientation, the new volunteers where taken on a brief tour of the zoo, afterwhich, we received our department assignments for the day. There were four new 'vollies' reporting in today, (Mark, Ami, Sophie and me.) Mark and I were assigned to the 'natives' team - kangaroos (grey and red), wallabies and echidnas.

The morning was spent raking the enclosures, picking up roo poo, and perparing small paperbags of Roo food... (native grass pellets similar in appearance to rabbit food, and cracked corn) for zoo guests to purchase to feed the kangaroos.

The afternoon included working at the Crocoseum during the Croc and Exotic Bird shows and walking the wombats; (which bare a strong resemblence to giant guinea pigs; and, yes, walking them means walking them on a leash around the park grounds!)

Before leaving for the day, we put out more food and water for the animals and do a perimeter check of the enclosures to make sure everything's OK for the evening.

Nobody said it was glamorous work... but I enjoyed the day tremendously!

What I learned today:
The photo below (which I took near the beach in Noosa,) is of a common Australia spyder called a Golden Orb Spider. It was quite large, the size of my hand!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Travelled so far...

Click on the map to enlarge the image.

This Google Earth map gives a quick visual of where I've been so far. I've been in Australia for about six weeks and have another six weeks before my travel visa expires. I had anticipated being further south on the east coast at this point, but I've been enjoying my time in the smaller towns and at the beaches along the way.

I've travelled as far south as the Australia Zoo in Beerwah, (my last blog post.) I noticed on the Zoo's website that volunteer positions are available, so I applied. I completed the application, submitted my resume and met with a staff member for an interview. I was accepted for a 5-day committment and I start on Wednesday (18th)! I am really looking forward to participating. I'm not sure what I will be doing yet, but I welcome the opportunity to experience 'zoo life' from an insiders (zookeepers' and animals') perspective. I'll report more about it.

I've also marked the location of my friend, Cindy and her family's home on the map. They live in South Australia in a very small town called Penong. Cindy is an artist (glass and silver) that I met in my glass bead class at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle, ME last summer. I'm planning to visit her while I'm in Australia... but at the rate I'm travelling... it maybe later than sooner :-)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Crikey! A day at the zoo…

See more zoo animals at:

OK, Siam... Are you sure you remember what we talked about?
Ha ha... That's really funny, Justin. You forgot that elephants never forget!
[Siam, 52-year-old female Asian Elephant]

The Australia Zoo is a family business. It was opened in 1970 by Steve Irwin’s parents Bob and Lyn, as the Beerwah Reptile Park, a home for rescued and rehabilitated wildlife. Steve and Terri took over management of the park seventeen years ago and it has grown to become a world-renowned attraction; espousing the interdependency of all living creatures, and promoting conservation and understanding through exciting, ‘hands-on’ educational experiences at the zoo.

It's important to be ready at all times... Just in case an unsuspecting critter should scurry between my open jaws. [Scrappa, Saltwater Croc]

Guests at the zoo have the opportunity to get up-close to the animals
by interacting with many of them in their enclosures and by feeding and petting them. There are informative exhibits, live demonstrations and zookeepers roaming throughout the park featuring some of the smaller, more portable animals. As evidence of the park's success, they are expanding with a "Madagascar-themed" area – which will be home to lions, giraffes and other African plains animals – opening in the near future.

Bird handler, Krystal, with one of the Macaws from the bird show.

On display was an especially poignant exhibit paying tribute to Steve Irwin – a collection of images from years past and a wall of Steve’s iconic khaki shirts and shorts, signed by family, friends, zoo staffers and park visitors, honoring the legacy of the “Crocodile Hunter.”

Should we tell Mr. Cassowary his hairstyle is a bit out of fashion!?
[Bedarra, (or is it: Babinda, Beepa, Rocky or Stomp?) Southern Cassowaries
are second only to the Ostrich in size.]

Monday, March 9, 2009

Meet the neighbors...

A few of the neighbors keeping me company on the beach...

Upper left: Shy Hermit Crab; in his 'borrowed' home.
Upper right: Ubiquitous Bush Turkey; as common as Mozzies.
Lower left: Laughing Kookaburra; a carnivorous kingfisher.
Lower right: Smiling Jai; in bathtime habitat.

Australian-style "Damper"

Around the campfire one afternoon, my neighbors were telling me about cooking 'damper' in a camp oven, (a cast-iron, Dutch oven,) over the hardwood coals. I said I had never heard of damper and Wendy offered to make one so I could sample. Neighbor, Carrie, decided to try her hand at making the rustic, settlers bread which is made with self-raising flour, beer and whatever else you want to put in it. The one pictured about is Carrie's loaf, which included mushrooms, onions and other spices. Wendy's savory cake included garlic, cheese and spices.

Having a virgin palate regarding this Aussie 'bush tucker', I volunteered as informal judge. I had several pieces of both recipies and, in the interest of diplomacy, affirmed them both 'winners!"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mea culpa...

To my blog readers... sorry, I goofed. I said in a previous post that "Brekky" (breakfast) at Hungry Jack's starts at 6 am; actually, it starts at 5 am. I'm not sure who's on the road at 5 am; (Hopefully they're awake behind the wheel!) But, isn't it nice to know they have a place to stop and get what they need to keep them going?

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Note: If you're adding comments to the blog, and don't see them published; it's because I didn't get them. I know a few people have had difficulty leaving comments... I'm not sure why that is. I'll post a comment below myself and see what the process is. You can always reach me at: jeffreythib@gmail.com.

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I'm in Noosa for a couple of days, then going back to Inskip Point (Rainbow Beach) for one last stay. There's a cyclone hitting the coast and moving south at the moment, hopefully it will not be too severe. They have issued high seas and strong wind warning for the next 24-48hrs. (I'm safe on high ground. :-) )

Will post in a few days.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Fish(less) Story…

A few of the beach boys...

All the ‘reel’ guys camping at Inskip Point have fishing rods…
So, I decided, “I need a fishing rod, too!”

The 12-foot, cherry-red (with stylish black accents), light-action fiberglass “Fish Hunter II” surf rod with it’s Jarvis Walker 750, 4.1-1 gear ratio ball bearing system and .35 mm, 15-lb. high-tensile strength monofilament line is worth every cent of the $69.95 it cost me at Rainbow Beach Bait & Tackle. Yes siree, Mr. Man!

Couple that with a tempered steel fillet knife (from Japan, of course; including rubberized custom sheath with handy belt loop,) and a bag of IQF (individually quick frozen) Prawns and I’m off the porch and running with the big dogs!

The only problem is; I’m not sure where I’m going?!?

A fishing buddy nets some "hardie" bait for us to use.

I’ve been casting in ankle-deep, knee-deep and waist-deep surf for two days straight. High-tide, low-tide, slack-tide… at dawn and at dusk; fishing with prawns as bait, “hardies” (fresh and day-old) as bait; mud bugs, soldier crabs, cheddar cheese cubes, even Spaghetti-O’s with Meatballs as bait, and NO luck :-(.

I wonder how tasty our minnow bait would be?

I’ve tried three sizes and styles of hooks; two different shapes of lead weights; some brass swivels, some black-colored brass swivels and even some small, multi-colored rubber beads that are guaranteed to “Drive any fish in the ocean crazy!,” – it’s like a “Mardi Gras” buffet at the end of my line and still NO nibble :-( .*
*Where’s Ron Popeil with his ‘Pocket Fisherman’ when you need him?

I’ve heard it said that a true fisherman enjoys the pure sport of fishing, regardless of whether or not he catches any fish. Yeah, right… I’ll bet that’s the same fisherman whose camping gear includes a 30-pack of BUD Lite! As for me, I would savor a good fish feed.

* * *

So it’s Day Three and I reek of rancid bait. I’m on my second tube of SPF 60 sun screen and I can play ‘connect the dots’ with the mozzie bites on my legs; finding half the constellations in the southern hemisphere, (including the Southern Cross, the Big Sauce Pan and the Little Sauce Pan) – I’m getting desperate. For those of you with fond memories of Pep’s annual fishing trip with us ‘boys;’ you’ll appreciate how dire my situation is when I say, “I’m even ready to try a little… (Dare I admit it?) ...Spray-on Bait Lure!!!

Crossing my fingers…. JP :-)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What's up with this...?

I have, literally, a ‘picture-postcard’ campsite out on Inskip Point, just a few minutes from Rainbow beach. If my “Chubby Bunny” van were any closer to the water, it would wash away at high tide. The balmy, on-shore breezes keep the mosquitoes at bay and the gentle crashing of the surf lulls me to sleep at night. It couldn’t be more perfect!

Ah… well… except for the traffic. Yes, the traffic… of the vehicles… that use the beach... as a road! It is legal (but only advisable if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle) to drive on the beaches in this part of Australia. In fact, you can travel for 50, 60, even 75 miles by way of the “beach” road.

The fine print? For reasons that should be obvious, it’s safest two hours before and after the low tide. All of the customary rules of the road apply. You must have a valid driver’s license; your vehicle must be registered and road-worthy; and the maximum speed allowed is 25 mph.

Still, it’s soooo non-sequitious (Is that even a word?), to be lounging on a quiet beach, thoughtfully reflecting on the panoramic majesty nature has created before you, only to have your view obstructed by a white, Toyota Land Cruiser, kicking up sand on its way into town to pick up some groceries. Hmmmm. :-(

What'd ya say...???

If the strong Aussie brogue (burr?) isn’t enough to thwart a casual conversation, then the colloquial vocabulary will. Countrymen (and women) of Oz, (apparently ‘Aussie’ is too long for everyday speech,) use a shorter substitute for many everyday words.

City names are often shortened: Brisbane is called, Brisy; Cape Tribulation is replaced with Cape Trib; and some even call Port Douglas, Dougy. Any truck or SUV is a ‘ute,’ (long u: uuute) instead of utility vehicle. (There are several kinds of utes, the most popular, it seems, is the platform ute. It’s configured with a standard truck cab and an aluminum flatbed – above the level of the rear wheels so there are no wheel wells or bumps – with short, ten-inch sides. The most popular color; white!)

Traditional, boxy, rugged ute...

A sporty, crew-cab ute... (it would look better in white!)

Mozzies are mosquitoes, (available at your local campground in ample supply.) And breakfast time at Hungry Jack (which is Burger King is disguise – same logo, color scheme and menu... and, interestingly enough, the same number of letters in the name; doesn't that fit nicely on the sign... hmmm.) is displayed on the roadside billboard as: Brekky: 6:00 am. I’ve even seen the word ‘brekky’ on national brand breakfast cereals at the local IGA!

Another often used expression is, “No worries, Mate!” (Or, “No worries, Love!,” depending on the gender of the conversee (sp?).) Where, in conversation, one would reply in the affirmative, such as: “O.K.,” “Sure,” “Fine,” “Will do,” “I understand,” “Great,” “I get it,” “Perfect.”, etc., Aussies unanimously respond, “No Worries!”

After several weeks in Australia, I can better appreciate the challenge of language for an exchange student in a foreign country. However, if I don’t understand what an Aussie is saying to me, I simply smile, nod my head and say “No worries, Mate!”

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Paragliding from Carlo Sandblow...

On the recommendation of fellow travelers, I stopped at Rainbow Beach, a small town of several hundred residents, which sits at the base of a steep sand ridge at the edge of the ocean. It is surrounded by the Great Sandy National Park which boasts miles of pristine sand beaches with rustic camping….

In the mornings, I’ve been bobbing in 80-degree waves – I even bought a “boogie board,’ (and trendy board shorts, of course,) which, I realize, may give the impression I’m turning to a ‘rip curl’ lifestyle; so, I’ll disclose the foam board’s true function which is to prevent me from getting ‘tumbled and polished’ in the surf! – And in the late afternoons, I walk the beach in search of a fortune in long-lost, sunken treasure; which I imagine to be washed ashore with the very next wave.

Ray (70+ years old) sits in his harness after taking off.

I noticed, (you’d have to be more than near-sighted not to,) a half-dozen, colorful paragliders soaring atop the steady, on-shore breezes that collide with the steep sandy ridges of the peninsula. The owner of the local BP Petrol station scrawled a crude map directing me to the Carlo Sandblow (a vast sand 'desert' atop one of the cliffs) where the gliders launch from; I was curious to see them up close.

John, preparing to launch his glider.

I’m sure it’s no great surprise to learn I spent the afternoon ‘talking thermals’ with the pilots on the dunes and even managed to hitch a ride, or should I say, “hitch a glide” back to town with Jean-Luc, the local paragliding guru/instructor in his tandem glider. I sat nestled in a cozy, nylon ruck-sack (harness), for a half-hour flight of cruising the ridgeline with the eagles. The experience was at once, serene and surreal – like soaring in a sailplane, but without the plane!

Jean-Luc and me.

Carlo Sandblow, the launch site (and usual landing spot) is visible atop the ridge ahead of us.

Jean-Luc pointed out the remnants of a wooden shipwreck of long ago as well as a group of large manta rays clearly visible, feeding on the sand bar directly below us. We talked about the rising sea level, global warming and climate change, the Obama presidency and how to read the winds; in a manner as laid-back as conversing over a cold VB Bitter (local beer) at the Surf Club. The rousing flight culminated with a flawless touchdown amid an audience of sunbathers on the town’s public beach!

See more pics at: http://picasaweb.google.com/jeffreythib/RainbowBeach