Werribee Open Range Zoo

12 Feb

I mentioned before that H was going to take me to Werribee Open Range Zoo for my birthday, but I got sick and couldn’t go. Fortunately, we finally got to make the trip out there about a week ago.

The Werribee Zoo has mainly African animals and has been built in a big crater where they have tried to recreate an African savannah and let the animals roam semi-free. In order to see them, you have to go on a “safari” which is included with your admission.

Not all the animals are in the free range area. Only the non-predator animals that get along, like giraffes and zebras. If you want to see lions or gorillas, they have their own enclosures.

I took some pictures to share with you.

A one-humped camel. I didn't see any two-humped camels. And I don't know if these camels really came from Africa or if they just scooped these guys up out of one of the rogue Outback herds.

A one-humped camel. I didn’t see any two-humped camels. And I don’t know if these camels really came from Africa or if they just scooped these guys up out of one of the rogue Outback herds.

American bison. They don't actually live in Africa, but they are a threatened species and I guess the zoo just wants to help keep them alive. And since they are a grassland species, they fit right in with the rest of the animals.

American bison. They don’t actually live in Africa, but they are a threatened species and I guess the zoo just wants to help keep them alive. And since they are a grassland species, they fit right in with the rest of the animals.

Scimitar-horned oryx are extinct in the wild and now only live in captivity. They used to live in herds of over 1000, but now most are fewer than 20.

Scimitar-horned oryx are extinct in the wild and now only live in captivity. They used to live in herds of over 1000, but now most are fewer than 20.

The Przewalski horse, or Mongolian wild horse, is the last truly wild horse in the world and has never been tamed by humans. It is native to Asia and parts of Europe, but being a grasslands animal, has managed to fit in at Werribee.

The Przewalski horse, or Mongolian wild horse, is the last truly wild horse in the world and has never been tamed by humans. It is native to Asia and parts of Europe, but being a grasslands animal, has managed to fit in at Werribee.

Przewalski horses died out in the wild in the late 1960s. It exists today only because of captive breeding programs and all Przewalski horses alive today are descended from nine horses that had been in captivity in 1945. Fortunately, these horses have been successfully reintroduced into the wild in Mongolia and there are now about 300 wild horses.

Przewalski horses died out in the wild in the late 1960s. It exists today only because of captive breeding programs and all Przewalski horses alive today are descended from nine horses that had been in captivity in 1945. Fortunately, these horses have been successfully reintroduced into the wild in Mongolia and there are now about 300 wild horses.

The addax is critically endangered, having been overhunted for its prized meat and skin. Fewer than 500 are thought to exist in the wild today.

The addax is critically endangered, having been overhunted for its prized meat and skin. Fewer than 500 are thought to exist in the wild today.

The grasslands animals have a huge area in which to roam.

The grasslands animals have a huge area in which to roam.

The wetlands area of the open range section. All the wetlands animals were off napping somewhere.

The wetlands area of the open range section. All the wetlands animals were off napping somewhere.

Zebras! I was so excited to see them, but unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the bus to get very many picture.

Zebras! I was so excited to see them, but unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the bus to get very many pictures.

Two funny giraffes. Did you know they have blue tongues? It helps keep their tongues from getting sunburned. Fortunately, giraffes are not endangered. Werribee has about seven giraffes, all male.

Two funny giraffes. Did you know they have blue tongues? It helps keep their tongues from getting sunburned. Fortunately, giraffes are not endangered. Werribee has about seven giraffes, all male.

The common eland is a type of African plains antelope. Fortunately, they are not endangered, though their population is decreasing. They are the second largest antelope in the world, after the giant eland.

The common eland is a type of African plains antelope. Fortunately, they are not endangered, though their population is decreasing. They are the second largest antelope in the world, after the giant eland.

These southern white rhinos were happy to just watch us go by. They are one of five species of rhinoceros that still exist. Their only predator is humans and they are under threat from habitat loss and poaching. Their horns are especially prized on the black market. While a rhino can survive without its horn- their horns are sometimes removed preemptively and very gently to discourage poaching- poachers often hack it off with a chainsaw or machete, causing serious harm to the animal and leaving it to die from blood loss and stress. A rhino's horn is worth its weight in gold on the black market.

These southern white rhinos were happy to just watch us go by. They are one of five species of rhinoceros that still exist. Their only predator is humans and they are under threat from habitat loss and poaching. Their horns are especially prized on the black market. While a rhino can survive without its horn- their horns are sometimes removed preemptively and very gently to discourage poaching- poachers often hack it off with a chainsaw or machete, causing serious harm to the animal and leaving it to die from blood loss and stress. A rhino’s horn is worth its weight in gold on the black market.

This is Leeroy. Our guide told us that he is very funny and gets bothered by the different species of animals socialising together and will try to herd zebras with zebras, giraffes with giraffes, etc and will go around herding until they are all segregated.

This is Leeroy. Our guide told us that he is very funny and gets bothered by the different species of animals socialising together and will try to herd zebras with zebras, giraffes with giraffes, etc and will go around herding until they are all segregated.

A  whole zebra family and this time they were on my side of the bus! How cute is that baby zebra???

A whole zebra family and this time they were on my side of the bus! How cute is that baby zebra???

The zoo has three male gorillas. Werribee Zoo is a sort of holding facility for male gorillas that take part in international breeding programs. They are endangered in the wild.

The zoo has three male gorillas. Werribee Zoo is a sort of holding facility for male gorillas that take part in international breeding programs. They are endangered in the wild.

Meerkats live in southern Africa and belong to the mongoose family. They are burrowers and can dig up to 400 holes a day. They also appear to be immune to snake and scorpion venom.

Meerkats live in southern Africa and belong to the mongoose family. They are burrowers and can dig up to 400 holes a day. They also appear to be immune to snake and scorpion venom.

The vervet monkeys were some of the few very active animals we saw. (Most were just resting.) Vervet monkeys exhibit a lot of human-like traits, including very strong kin relationships, anxiety, dependent alcohol use, and spite. They have four predators (leopards, eagles, pythons, and baboons) and have a distinct call for each. They should perhaps develop a call for humans because, while not endangered, they are facing threats from human encroachment, including loss of territory, electrocution, vehicles, and being captured for bush meat, use in traditional medicine, or biomedical research.

The vervet monkeys were some of the few very active animals we saw. (Most were just resting.) Vervet monkeys exhibit a lot of human-like traits, including very strong kin relationships, anxiety, dependent alcohol use, and spite. They have four predators (leopards, eagles, pythons, and baboons) and have a distinct call for each. They should perhaps develop a call for humans because, while not endangered, they are facing threats from human encroachment, including loss of territory, electrocution, vehicles, and being captured for bush meat, use in traditional medicine, or biomedical research.

Hippopotamus spend most of their day wallowing in mud or water. In order to keep from getting suburned, their skin secretes a natural sunscreen, which has a pinkish tint to it. Hippos are listed as a vulnerable species. Baby hippos are subject to predation by crocodiles, lions, and hyenas, but adult hippos are left along due to their size and aggressive temperament. They are subject to poaching from humans for their ivory teeth.

Hippopotamus spend most of their day wallowing in mud or water. In order to keep from getting sunburned, their skin secretes a natural sunscreen, which has a pinkish tint to it. Hippos are listed as a vulnerable species. Baby hippos are subject to predation by crocodiles, lions, and hyenas, but adult hippos are left along due to their size and aggressive temperament. They are subject to poaching from humans for their ivory teeth.

These two cheetahs are two adolescent brothers. Cheetahs are the fastest land animal and can run up to 70 mph or 112 kph.

These two cheetahs are two adolescent brothers. Cheetahs are the fastest land animal and can run up to 70 mph or 112 kph.

Every day, there is a serval demonstration, where the keeper brings out a serval and gets it to leap around and be adorable while explaining why servals do what they do. I'd love to be able to tell you more about it, but honestly, I couldn't hear anything the keeper said because there was a very rude mother behind me who let her child scream in my ear the entire time. But since most of the animals are not that active during the day, this is one of the few chances you'll get to see one of them doing something other than resting.

Every day, there is a serval demonstration, where the keeper brings out a serval and gets it to leap around and be adorable while explaining why servals do what they do. I’d love to be able to tell you more about it, but honestly, I couldn’t hear anything the keeper said because there was a very rude mother behind me who let her child scream in my ear the entire time. But since most of the animals are not that active during the day, this is one of the few chances you’ll get to see one of them doing something other than resting.

We had to come back to the lion exhibit three times before we finally saw one. I'm glad my camera has a decent zoom lens because this picture has much better detail than what we were actually able to see. The zoo has three male lions and one female. Sadly, their population in the wild is rapidly decreasing and most wild lion populations are isolated from each other, causing inbreeding.

We had to come back to the lion exhibit three times before we finally saw one. I’m glad my camera has a decent zoom lens because this picture has much better detail than what we were actually able to see. The zoo has three male lions and one female. Sadly, their population in the wild is rapidly decreasing and most wild lion populations are isolated from each other, causing inbreeding.

The Werribee Open Range Zoo is not a huge zoo. You can spend maybe three hours there before you’ve seen everything you want to see, assuming all the animals are visible. (We didn’t see any African wild dogs, since they were just not active, and almost missed the lions.)

The safari to see the grasslands animals is probably the best part. It’s a bit difficult to see the animals that are in enclosures, but the safari animals are free roaming and you can get pretty close to them.

I was also really looking forward to the serval demonstration because I really like servals. Well, I like all wild cats, but servals are very cute. I love their spots. Unfortunately, at places like zoos, you always have selfish people who don’t care if they ruin the experience for everyone else.

I hate to be Debbie Downer, but I have a message for parents: If your child still needs afternoon naps, don’t drag them around a zoo all day long. Your kid is tired and cranky by 2pm and they need a rest from all the excitement. Make sure they get it because no one else wants to hear your screaming brat and your screaming brat is miserable and you’re a terrible parent for ignoring their needs. If you, the parent, want to see the serval demonstration, then get a babysitter and leave your kid at home. Your toddler is not interested in what the keeper has to say, but we adults who paid for our own tickets are interested and want to be able to hear what he is saying without your brat screaming throughout the entire thing. So let me make it simple in case you didn’t know why everyone was giving you the stink eye: please just leave because no one likes you.

As much as I liked seeing all the animals, by the end of the day, H and I were both a bit depressed. The whole day was basically, “Look at this animal; it’s going extinct,” and “Look at this animal, it’s extinct in the wild,” and “Look at this animal, it’s severely endangered because of poaching,” and so on. It’s really sad to see all these majestic animals and know they are struggling to survive and that in most cases, humans are to blame. I’m glad we have zoos that run conservation and breeding programs to keep them alive, but it’s still very depressing.

But if you can get past that, then Werribee is a neat zoo and worth visiting. I don’t know of any other zoo that takes you on a mini safari. I admit I did like Healesville Sanctuary a lot better (there’s more to do and see there) and I haven’t been to the Melbourne Zoo yet, but it’s not bad for what it is.

2 Responses to “Werribee Open Range Zoo”

  1. Cosette February 12, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    I liked the Werribee Zoo too, but I like Healesville better too. I think it’s because just about every major city has an African-style zoo, but Healesville features Australian animals and that’s a treat. I haven’t been to the Melbourne Zoo either. If you like touring grand old homes, check out Werribee Mansion next time you’re in that area.

    • housewifedownunder February 16, 2013 at 11:28 am #

      I’ve never been to a zoo that does it safari style, so I thought that was unique, but I do prefer the Australian animals. I don’t know of any zoo outside of Australia that features mainly Australian animals. Most zoos may have a kangaroo or a koala, but they don’t usually have anything else and a lot of them don’t even have those. I did notice the mansion, but I wasn’t entirely sure if it was something open to the public or not. There seemed to be a wedding there, in any case. But I do like old homes.

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