Australia has a lot of space. Dubbo has a lot of space, even by Australian standards. It makes a lot of sense to establish a zoo 400 km North-west of Sydney that can effectively recreate habitats of many endangered species. This was achieved in 1977 and the zoo has continued to develop over the decades. The zoo is one of many attractions along the Newell Highway, and although it seems a long way from anywhere, it is well worth a visit.

In our family, going to the zoo entailed spending the whole day looking at every animal, no matter how lacking in cuteness or fluffiness, with excited discussions our favourites to follow. If, for some reason time was limited, then each person in the group would pick one animal, often the bizarre, gross and/or interesting, and together we would visit each of these. By contrast, I know a family where zoo visits involve each person visiting one animal of their choice with everyone meeting at the exit within an hour of arriving. This is not the way to experience Dubbo Zoo.

Undoubtedly, visitors have travelled a long way to get to the zoo. It is a good idea to allow a whole day or a weekend is even better. Arrive early for a guided morning walk with a behind the scenes tour of the park, and a chance to see the animals being active. After breakfast, hire a bicycle, or tandem or so and cycle the park. As the day gets warmer and the animals get lazier, have a long lunch using the barbecue facilities available in the zoo. Wait for the afternoon activities to begin. Non-nocturnal animals do most of their foraging, hunting, mating, playing, drinking, any other general activities in the mornings and evenings. And keep track of the keeper talks. The zoo also host functions which almost makes me wish I could get married again.

There are no cages. There are moats and night pens, but no fences to interfere with photos. Many of the primate species are kept on islands in the waterways. With the waterways being home to several species of common free-range, park birds that include brush turkeys, peacocks, ducks and ibis.

One of my favourite stories came from the gibbons. Their diet is strictly monitored and they are supplied mostly with fruit, nuts and some bread, everything a healthy gibbon needs. But sometimes they supplement their diet, and entertain themselves by feeding the ducks their bread. Their reflexes are superior to human reflexes, and if the duck gets too close - the gibbon gets fresh meat.

The siamang is most likely to make its forest-penetrating screams in the morning or early evening. There is a vague chance you can hear it if you miss these times, but it is almost guaranteed if you spend the whole day at the zoo.

The zoo is home to the only African elephants in Australia. Unfortunately, the male died and so their breeding programme is taking a hiatus. But there are still three females residing there.

They are having remarkable success with breeding programmes for both the black rhino and the white rhino. Separate programmes, of course.

And I have first hand experience, that the Galapagos tortoises are interested in their breeding programme. Ooh, is observing first or second hand experience? I didn't get involved. They are pretty big, you know.
And they make a strange, slow, almost mechanical noise when they are going for it.

Hopefully the lions have learnt to get along. The zoo hosted two females for a long time, and then in 2003 a young male was introduced to them. This is a slow process because should large carnivores do not get along not only does the breeding programme fail - but you can end up with huge vet bills.

There are over 2000 animals in the zoo. With over 100 species represented, including the above and Australian native animals. The zoo is a great way to spend a day with the family, but also plays an important role in international programmes to conserve endangered species. It also means there are often babies, you know, the cute and fluffy animals.

References: - Last visited 21 Sept 2003.

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