Sunday, March 6, 2011

Australia Reptile Park

I hate and love zoos. Some I just hate, I guess. But many are very good at what zoos are supposed to be good at: fascinating humans while educating them about animals while being exceptionally mindful of the care of those animals. On that note, Christine and I went for a drive up north yesterday and came across the Australia Reptile Park. We were tired of driving and said What the hell and paid the $24 (!) to get in.

We will be going back. Possibly to work as volunteers.

First, a sign we saw in the park, helpfully illustrating the life cycle of the tasmanian devil (click to enlarge):

In case you didn't get that, kids:

Look at those faces: Mating is fun! And a little naughty! Like I said: educating and fascinating!

Moving on: The Australia Reptile Park is one of the country's most important wildlife parks/zoos. For starters: It's where the venom from what is commonly called the most deadly spider in the world, the Sydney funnel web spider, is "milked" from spiders in order to develop antivenom. (Here's how they do it!) That antivenom first became available in 1980: before that, deaths from funnel web bites weren't exactly common, but they did happen, and if you didn't die you suffered horribly and were in the hospital for weeks. Since development of the antivenom there has not been a single reported death from the bite of a Sydeny funnel web. Not one. You still suffer horribly—the funnel web's bite is extremely painful, and you'll still get fever and sweats and chills and nausea and pain and pain and pain—but you're only in the hospital for a couple days, rather than weeks and weeks.

  • Note: When Christine was a kid her grandfather died from a funnel web bite. She has a funny story about that. Honestly. Seems Grandpa was able to kill the spider—always helpful—and dear little Christine, about six at the time, was assigned the duty of holding said dead spider while they raced to the hospital. Once there, they were tending to grandpa and whatnot…when the "dead" funnel web spider…the most deadly spider in creation…started crawling across Christine's hand. But really, she should tell you the story…
The park, we found out from the very nice and very funny Ranger Mike, has about 600 venomous snakes - OH. MY. GOD. I am so going into the building - and they do regular venom milking on several of them of different species, as well as the venomous spider milking. They even have king cobras—the only zoo in Australia that has these snakes. And they breed them. And if we volunteer…maybe we can help milk them? Please?

Let's get to some pics. You'll be happy to hear that I actually didn't take very many. First, on the drive out, we stopped and listed to some bell birds. Just beautiful. (The also beautiful whining cries are from another type of bird which I'm not familiar  with. I will let you know when I find out.)

I've always thought of copperheads as distinctly American snakes, but they are found in many parts of the world. Here's an Aussie version—very venomous (of course)—the very attractive lowland copperhead:

Here's a closer shot. If you click, then click again, you can get in very close to the cute bugger's face, and see the mites on its head.  Mites are a big problem with captive (and wild) snakes.

Next up, a non-native animal, the Galapagos tortoise. I don't have much to say about it, but this beast does have an odd shell:

Now back to native Oz: wombats, the cutest little pig creatures you ever saw. I'll write more about them when we see them in the wild, which we will:

• My feelings about animals in captivity were very affected by this book: King Solomon's Ring. Lorenz believed that some, maybe many, animals are not adversely affected by captivity. And he speaks with more than a little authority. (On a personal note, I think it was my old friend Dave May who recommended that book to me. Along with A Confederacy of Dunces, A Canticle For Liebowitz, and many more. Thanks for that, Dave.)



  1. Yay! Oz Reptile Park!!!! Thanks Thom. We love reptiles and we miss you! (or vice versa???)

    Keep on finding super stuff and sharing it with us Up Theres!

  2. Thank you Jay. I love doing what I'm doing.

  3. A good book for you would be "the life of Pi" On zoo upkeep and tigers in particular. Also: Did you ever read the sequel to A Canticle For Liebowitz? "Saint Liebowitze and Th wild Horse woman"? written forty years apart.

  4. Whu-huh? NO! I never knew there was a sequel!

    Did you ever read Toole's only other novel? Most people think he wrote only "Confederacy," but he wrote "Neon Bible" too. When he was 16. Chillingly written.

  5. Great post Thom. I think reptiles are definitely one of those animals that mind captivity less than many others. Many of them probably don't even know they're in captivity at all. I've had some pet reptiles that really thrived. T-Poe has an amazingly happy Corn Snake that is almost 6 feet long!

    I loved "King Solomon's Ring"! One of my favorite Nature books. Lorenz' stories were a big inspiration to me. He mentions there or in one of his other books that one of his favorite aquariums was one with just a few rocks and stones and a few shrimp. Well, one of my favorite aquariums is one I have right now with rocks, plants, and you guessed it, fresh water shrimp. I've had several invertebrate tanks over the years, which I didn't even know a person could set up until I read that story.

    I also ordered "The Neon Bible" and it's in my queue to read soon. Thanks for the head's up. I had no idea it existed.

    This park sounds awesome. The kind of place T-Poe and I would probably hang out all day! And Wombats crack me up...

    "I can't milk a Sydney Funnel Spider..."

  6. Wow, a shrimp tank. Sounds cool. Lorenz mentions some birds that he believes thrive in captivity. Can't remember which they were. Some dont' though, definitely. Glad you read and liked him, Gene.