Sanctuary?

We pulled up to Healesville Sanctuary at 11am, grabbed our rain gear from the boot, and ran for the entrance.  The line wasn’t bad, since it was raining. We were handed a map, which looked like a bowl of, well, spag bol.

So we ran headlong, following signs to the platypus show, and rocked up as an employee was securing a chain across the entrance.

“I’m sorry,” she said firmly, “but it’s 11:15.  You can stand here and watch.”  Really.  You give some people a bit of power and it goes to their heads.

Still, we were close enough to get the gist of it; a ranger stood in a tank playing with a frisky platypus named Milton, and after the “show” we were allowed in to take a closer look.  This was the best of my photos.

In case you slept through 8th grade biology class and have never seen a Nat Geo special on Australian wildlife, here are some photos of platypuses from the Zoos Victoria website.

Did you know they are frisky as kittens? Did you also know they have a spur which can excrete venom that causes excruciating pain?

Milton sure looked like he was having fun.  The ranger had a devil of a time getting him to stop fooling around and get back into his pen.

You may be wondering, “what’s the difference between a sanctuary and a zoo?”  None, I don’t think, except branding.  I did some freelance grant writing for the Minnesota Zoo back in the 80s, and they were talking about it being a “living ark” back then.  That is, zoos/sanctuaries are the only place to breed endangered species until and if their habitat can be restored.

I’m sure they all struggle with conveying educational messages while allowing people to have fun.  And so there was the platypus show, a birds of prey show which was astounding, and all sorts of signage about not wasting water, etc.

At the end of the bird show they handed out refrigerator magnets about not using balloons at birthday parties.  One can only imagine what goes wrong when an eagle “captures” and eats a balloon.

It rained all day, but that meant we almost had the place to ourselves.

There were goannas and snakes.

And a building lighted with infrared, with every size and shape of hopping marsupial that lives in the Australian desert.

I have never claimed to be a great photographer, and they didn’t make it easy at Healesville.  I tried to just be in the moment.  When would I ever be back?

The bird area was a treat, at least for us humans.

I made a lot of—probably—annoying comments like, “Tasmanian Devils remind me of pigs!” and “I didn’t realize XXX were so small/big!”  But really I was delighted with everything; I really felt like a kid.

Did you know Tasmanian Devil’s ears turn red when they’re agitated?  I read that they make “spine-chilling screetches” but didn’t hear any that day. Goodness me—I just found a recording of the noise, and it is indeed frightening.

Milton was a hard act to follow, but as we left the Tasmanian Devils I gushed to no one, “Those are my favorites!”

Sadly, they are endangered by the highly contagious Devil Facial Tumor Disease.  This really is a case of separating out healthy individuals until a cure is found.

We had a late lunch in the nearly empty cafeteria while watching rangers play with echidnas.  That’s not a sentence you get to write every day.

I had really hoped to see a wombat, but only glanced the backside of one.

I felt sorry for the koalas until I read that doing nothing all day in a small space is their normal.

We sauntered through the kangaroo enclosure, then we slipped through a gate and there were the tree roos.  This really was my favorite.

After four hours on the road and five in the rain, it was time to leave for our friends’ house in Melbourne proper, which took an hour.  I was tired, but I managed to make conversation over a Thai takeaway before abruptly excusing myself and doing a face plant into bed.

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