Zoo News Autumn 2021

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The zoo of us

Meet the veterinarian treating native wildlife injured in the bushfires


Making manure Find out where all the animal poo goes and what it’s used for




Victoria’s faunal emblem is getting a population boost



The young wildlife conservationists making a difference



Werribee Zoo Expansion

16 Feature story

Helmeted Honeyeater


Victoria’s faunal emblem has been given a helping hand

Dear Members, The last few months have shown how much the community loves and missed visiting the zoos. Every member I have spoken to is grateful that we are open, is happy that we were able to care for the animals during the closures and promises to visit again soon. We’re so pleased to welcome our members back to our wonderful zoos. I am looking forward to an amazing and fulfilling year in 2021. Dr Jenny Gray CEO, Zoos Victoria.

Dogs on the job

04 News at the zoos

The latest goings on and events coming up

16 Helmeted Honeyeater

06 Breaking new ground




A group of dedicated people is fighting to get this bird off the critically endangered list

Plans for the bigger and more interactive Werribee Open 18 Sleepover at the zoo Range Zoo are in place Spend the night in a safari tent at Werribee The zoo of us Open Range Zoo Meet Dr Leanne Wicker, the Senior Wildlife Veterinarian 20 Much ado about poo at Healesville Sanctuary There’s a lot of manure at the zoo. Find out what Mini conservation heroes happens to all that poo The smallest members of the community with the 22 Over to you biggest influence Socials and member Conservation tails photos The dedicated canines helping to protect endangered species


Slumber safari

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we live and work, and pay our respects to Elders both past and present.

Zoo News is published for Zoos Victoria by Hardie Grant Media

Zoos Victoria PO Box 74, Parkville Vic 3052 P 03 9340 2780 / F 03 9285 9390 E members@zoo.org.au W zoo.org.au

MANAGING DIRECTOR Nick Hardie-Grant ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Scott Elmslie ACCOUNT MANAGER Hannah Louey EDITOR Georgia Lejeune DESIGN Dallas Budde, Natalie Lachina, Kate Slattery ADVERTISING Lauren Casalini PRINTER Immij ZOOS VICTORIA Eamonn Verberne, Olivia Shiels, Tracey Borch

Connect with us: Have you visited lately? Share your visit with us and be sure to use the hashtag #zoomember

Cover: Helmeted Honeyeater (Photograph Jo Howell)

Printed on 100% recycled paper with vegetable-based inks. Zoos Victoria is a carbon neutral organisation.





NEWS at the ZOO Keep up to date with the news and events taking place at Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Come and visit us! Tickets are available to visit all three zoo properties. Book your free Zoo Member tickets online at zoo.org.au. The animals can’t wait to see you.

UPCOMING EVENTS Zoovie Night Sit back and enjoy a dino-themed Zoovie Night at Melbourne Zoo with a special screening of The Land Before Time. The event will take place on 10 April and as a special thanks to our members for your support throughout COVID-19, tickets are only $5 per person. Bookings are required as numbers are limited. Visit www.zoo.org.au/member-events for details.

Easter at the Zoo Melbourne Zoo is hosting dinosaur and Easter-themed activities during the Easter holidays – including a Dino Egg Hunt (2–5 April). The dino school holiday program in April will keep the kids occupied with various activities on offer.


Wine and Wildlife Healesville Sanctuary is once again teaming up with Yarra Valley icons to bring you a fun weekend of food and wine against the backdrop of the Sanctuary’s stunning bushland setting. Watch this space for more details to come.

Visit zoo.org.au/member-vip-zone for all the latest member events, updates and competitions, exclusive for Zoo Members.

Don’t miss them! The dinos will be here until 2 May 2021.

THE DINOS ARE HERE! BUT NOT FOR MUCH LONGER… See the towering prehistoric creatures for yourself at Healesville’s Lost Sanctuary, Melbourne Zoo’s new Dino Lab and Zoorassic at Werribee Open Range Zoo. The dinosaurs are staying until 2 May and then they will disappear into extinction once again. Discover the ten ancient animatronic giants at Zoorassic at Werribee Open Range Zoo – follow the Werribee River Trail. At 10am each day the Docile Dinos wake from their long slumber to interact with children of all ages. Their docile nature is perfect for soundsensitive and young children. The interactive Dino Fossil Dig allows children to roll up their

sleeves and dig for clues into the past – like giant bones. There are huge animatronic dinosaurs and megafauna to be found among the towering trees at The Lost Sanctuary, located at Healesville Sanctuary. Meet the Mega Keepers and walk in the very large footsteps of the T-Rex. The Dino Lab at Melbourne Zoo has little ones becoming junior palaeontologists for the great Dino Dig. Cute baby dinos and stories of extinction will keep the kids engaged all day. Don’t forget to stop by the Zoo Shop for a souvenir from your archaeological adventure on the way out. ZN

Did you know? The word dinosaur comes from the term ‘Dinosauria’ coined by English naturalist Sir Richard Owen. It is derived from the Greek words ‘deinos’, meaning ‘fearfully great’, and ‘sauros’, meaning ‘lizard’.





NEW GROUND An $84 million funding boost will see Werribee Open Range Zoo transformed into a world-class facility that attracts a million visitors each year. WORDS Jo




he winds of change are blowing through Werribee Open Range Zoo thanks to a five-year, multimillion-dollar expansion project. From a brand-new elephant sanctuary to a treetop Sky Safari gondola and a waterhole precinct complete with a walking trail and café, the redevelopment will ensure members of the future spend days – not hours – experiencing the wonders of the Zoo.

Zoo with a view

The hotly anticipated 1.6-kilometre tree-top Sky Safari gondola will offer members a bird’s-eye view of the animals below, as well as panoramic vistas of the Melbourne CBD, Werribee River and the You Yangs. Greg Wood, General Manager Operations at Werribee Open Range Zoo, explains that the Sky Safari will reduce the amount of terrain covered by foot, which will be especially beneficial for older people, children and people with disabilities. “It’s a good mass transportation option that offers all-abilities access to the Zoo. It’s a 220-hectare site, so we can’t expect people to walk everywhere. This offers members the ability to hop on and off where they need to,” says Greg, who adds that the gondola has been designed to minimise impact on native vegetation. Left: An artist’s impression of the new waterhole walk. Below (from left to right): An artist’s impression of the Werribee Open Range Zoo expansion plan includes a new elephant sanctuary; a midstation; and a waterhole station.

CHANGES ON THE SAVANNAH The Zoo’s expansion plans also include more pastures and a new management facility for savannah animals, such as American Bison and Przewalski’s Horses. Keeper Denny Burgoyne explains that these large, heavy species can be challenging to handle, so the new management facility will be a welcome addition. “The facility will give us better access to these species. We’ll be able to get closer, which will make preventative medical care safer and less stressful,” says Denny. Additionally, new overnighting paddocks will allow pastures to be rested more often to avoid overgrazing. Of course,

all habitat changes will be carefully managed. “It may take some time for the animals to get used to the new management facility. It’s likely we’ll give them access to it overnight so they can explore it at their own pace,” says Denny. With extra space comes the opportunity to welcome more Przewalski’s Horses – a species formerly extinct in the wild – from interstate. “If we introduced new horses to the herd, we’d typically yard the two groups next to each other, separated by a fence. Then we’d slowly introduce the new horses to the herd once it was safe to.”

“The facility will give us better access to these species… which will make preventative medical care safer and less stressful.”




Walking the waterhole

For people keen to hit the Zoo on foot, a new walking trail will give members the chance to view animals in a natural landscape. The trail will loop through the new waterhole precinct, which Glen Holland, Director of Werribee Open Range Zoo, is particularly excited about. “The waterhole will offer members a more immersive experience. They’ll learn about the predator–prey relationship and see how African communities use guard dogs to live and farm alongside predators, such as hyenas,” says Glen.

“Experiencing rhino, antelope and predators on foot is quite different from the current safari experience on the bus” Glen explains that there are plans to build a bunker within the precinct, so photographers can get action shots of Cheetahs running at full speed. He believes that the waterhole will be a compelling enticement for all visitors. “Experiencing rhino, antelope and predators on foot is quite different from the current safari experience on the bus,” he says.

Did you know? The expansion project at Werribee Open Range Zoo is set to create almost 350 local jobs, including 90 direct jobs. Upon completion, the redevelopment is expected to contribute more than $17.8 million to Victoria’s economy each year. 8

Below: Melbourne Zoo’s awardwinning Trail of the Elephants. Left (from top to bottom): Plans include an ampitheatre; the Asian Elephants are just one of many species set to benefit from the expansion at Werribee Open Range Zoo; An artist’s impression of the waterhole.

Elephants on the move

Melbourne Zoo’s Asian Elephant herd is set to benefit from the project, with a 22-hectare sanctuary earmarked for their new home. Once the herd settles in at Werribee Open Range Zoo, the expansive sanctuary will give them a variety of habitats in which to roam. While a date for the move isn’t yet set, many factors will be taken into consideration to ensure minimal disruption to the herd. “You wouldn’t want to move elephants in their last trimester of pregnancy, or mothers with young calves. We need to time the move carefully. It will be extremely well-planned,” explains Glen. Greg adds that the new habitat will dramatically increase the elephants’ range of movement, with kilometres of terrain containing a variety of vegetation and

Taungurung Country FREE ENTRY! 2 03Hood Street, Yea, Victoria 5797 2663 Open 7 days* - 10am to 4pm @ywaterdiscoverycentre www.ywatercentre.com.au Yea Wetlands Kiosk Open Fri to Mon & public holidays* *Closed Xmas Day & Good Friday

features designed to mimic the natural environment, encouraging them to explore. “One day we might create a fast-moving water body to replicate a flooded stream. Another day we might have a cornfield for them to smash through, like they would in the wild. Every day will be a different journey for both the elephants and our visitors,” says Greg. ZN

fyi MEET THE HERD Visit Melbourne Zoo’s award-winning Trail of the Elephants to see the seven-strong Asian Elephant herd in its current home.

Explore the stunning Yea Wetlands, 32 hectares of boardwalks, billabongs and abundant wildlife Learn about water and wetlands ecology in the Discovery Centre Discover the rich history of the Taungurung people and our indigenous garden 'Badji Baanang' Book the kids into our school holiday activity programs Enjoy coffee, ice cream and light refreshments on the deck at the Yea Wetlands iosk Browse the gift shop for a great range including local art and produce Chat to our friendly volunteers for some great ideas for things to see and do in the area ZOONEWS MEMBER MAGAZINE • AUTUMN 2021 •




Back to the Wild As the Senior Wildlife Veterinarian at Healesville Sanctuary, Dr Leanne Wicker helps animals thrive. WORDS

Alegria Alano


Jo Howell

Did you know Koalas live almost entirely on eucalyptus leaves, which are really difficult to digest. They need to eat A LOT of leaves – up to 1kg every night – and they have a really slow metabolism to save energy. They sometimes sleep up to 20 hours in a day to conserve their energy.


From the Keeper: Q What animals do you work

with at Healesville Sanctuary?

A At Healesville Sanctuary all our patients are Australian native wildlife. We look after all the resident sanctuary animals, as well as threatened species in captive breeding programs and in the wild. We also run a busy wildlife hospital at Healesville Sanctuary called the Australian Wildlife Health Centre. We treat between 1,000 and 2,000 injured wildlife for release per year. Q How does a wildlife vet differ

from a regular vet?

A Like any area of specialisation, wildlife vets do a lot of extra study and training to work with wildlife. Our patients are also really varied – from tiny Alpine skinks to large animals like elephants or rhinos. Our approach also needs to be quite different – since many of the animals we work with aren’t used to human contact, we need to think of clever ways to provide medical care in a manner which is most positive and least intrusive for the animal. Q How did Healesville Sanctuary

help wildlife affected by the fires?

A We worked with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on the official response to wildlife. We set up triage units and treated hundreds of animals. We brought 25 koalas back for intensive care with the help of the whole Zoos Victoria family. Once the animals were through the initial period of intensive care, they moved to large enclosures to develop climbing strength and fitness and recuperate. In December 2020, 14 koalas were released back to the wild. Q How well did you get to know

the koalas?

A It’s impossible to treat a badly injured animal for 11 months and not get attached. We watched one little koala, Jeremy, grow from a little ‘back young’ to a teenager. He arrived with his mother, Skye, badly burned and suffering smoke inhalation. When we released him, he raced up the tree, opened his lungs and did a big bellow.

Q How do you know when the koalas

are ready to be released?

A Wild animals won’t receive care all their life, so we have to ensure they’re ready to thrive, not just survive. The koalas were in great condition when released. Our vets are working with a field team to monitor their health after release and use GPS and radiotelemetry to track their health, location and habitat use. We will monitor them for four months – enough time to make sure they’ve settled back into life in the wild. DNA from scats will tell us whether they survive long term and if they have joeys. Q Where are they released? A They are returned as close as possible to their original location, as long as the habitat has regenerated and can support them long term. We looked for forest with the right trees for koalas to eat, with a really healthy canopy to provide plenty of food and shelter. Healthy koala populations need biodiverse ecosystems – including other mammals, reptiles, birds, insects and plants that are healthy too. In a lot of areas impacted last year there’s still a long way to go to get those healthy ecosystems back. Q What should people remember

in a wildlife emergency?

A Make sure any action you take will be positive for wildlife and habitats. Seek expert advice by contacting organisations like Zoos Victoria to help you assist in the right way. ZN

Did you know? Koalas don’t have a nail on the biggest digit of their hind feet, and it’s really close to their heel – so it’s a little bit like a thumb, but on their foot. It helps koalas to grip trees so that they can climb right to the top.

fyi EMERGENCY WILDLIFE HELP For more information about what you can do if you find injured or distressed wildlife visit zoo.org.au/emergencywildlife-help.

BACK TO THE WILD The koalas have returned home to the wild. Watch this video to see how they’re doing. Watch it here





Luk Chai Welcome to the herd.


he elephant herd at Melbourne Zoo has welcomed 11-year old Luk Chai. Born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, Luk Chai is an important introduction to the female Asian elephants at Melbourne Zoo – and will step into the role of ‘big brother’ to adolescent bull Man Jai. His introduction to the female elephants at Melbourne Zoo is part of a plan to breed the endangered species – because they aren’t related, Luk Chai will provide important genetic diversity to the herd. He is also providing social opportunities for the six other Asian Elephants that call Melbourne Zoo home. Asian Elephants are listed as endangered in the wild due to decline in habitat (from climate change and competition with humans using it for housing and crops) – making herds in zoos more important than ever. Come and visit the Trail of the Elephants at Melbourne Zoo and warmly welcome Luk Chai to the family. We’re all very excited to have him with us. ZN


Settling In Watch Luk Chai interacting with his new herd. Looks like they’re going to be good friends. Watch it here

Let’s play!


Fighting extinction from afar Despite moving halfway across the world to California, the Fallon family are still committed to helping Zoos Victoria fight extinction. WORDS Jo

Xander & Isis


Children for change There are plenty of ways for young people to support Australia’s threatened species. Here are a few ways to help get them started: • Participate in citizen science projects like Zoos Victoria’s annual Lights Off for the Bogong Moths campaign in September • Have an animal-themed dressup party. Instead of receiving presents, ask for donations to support wildlife conservation • Write a letter to your local newspaper to raise awareness about threatened species • Become a Zoos Victoria Mini Conservation Hero by completing our six-week online course. Sign up at zoo.org. au/member-vip-zone/miniconservation-hero • Stay connected with Zoos Victoria and learn more about animal behaviour through our Member Exclusive VIP Zone zoo.org.au/member-vip-zone


hen the Fallon family moved from Melbourne to Napa County, California, in mid-2019 they were keen to stay connected to Zoos Victoria. “We used to live 10 minutes from Melbourne Zoo so the kids basically grew up there; it was like our backyard,” says Jayde, mother of young wildlife enthusiasts Isis and Xander. As the bushfires swept through Australia in late 2019, Isis and her older brother Xander were moved by the plight of the native wildlife. “I felt like it was important to help the animals,” says Isis. So, with the help of Xander, teacher Mrs Woodward and classmates at Browns Valley Elementary School, Isis (who is seven) set to work raising funds for Zoos Victoria’s Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund. The class worked on a koala-themed art project and shared facts about koalas and other Australian wildlife with the school and community while raising $300AUD to help bushfireaffected animals. “I taught my class that koalas aren’t really bears and that platypuses and

echidnas are the only egg-laying mammals in the world,” says Isis. Along with the rest of her family, Isis misses visiting the zoos, especially Melbourne Zoo’s Butterfly House. Thankfully, the Animals at Home live streams have kept the family connected to both the zoos and their friends back home. Isis aims to grow up to be a scientist. But for now, she’s happy contributing to wildlife conservation efforts. “Even if you’re small, you can still make a big difference,” says Isis. ZN

fyi SUPPORT OUR FIRE FUND Thanks to our members who have contributed to the Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund. If you would like to donate, visit zoo.org.au/fire-fund






They’re often called man’s best friend, but the dogs involved in conservation projects run by Zoos Victoria have a close relationship with other animals too. Here are two of the capable canines helping us fight extinction. WORDS Beth

M EE T TH E TR A IN ER Guardian Dog Program Coordinator Dave Williams loves spending time with his canine colleagues. He first encountered Maremmas in 2006 while volunteering on Middle Island with Little Penguins, which were being attacked by foxes. “I was working on an egg farm that had Maremmas protecting the chickens,” Dave explains, “and we had an idea to do the same thing for the penguins.” Dave has worked alongside Maremmas ever since, safeguarding Australasian Gannets in Portland and, for the past six years, trialling the Guardian Dog program at Zoos Victoria.


Wallace   PHOTOGRAPHY Will Watt


What’s next for our dog squad?

MEET MACKI NNON Name // Moss Age // 2 Breed // Labrador Job // Wildlife Detection Dog

Name // Mackinnon Age // 5 Breed // Maremma Job // Guardian Dog

Role // Moss sniffs out traces of animals that are being monitored by threatened species biologists, explains Wildlife Detection Dog Officer Naomi Hodgens. “He’ll soon be involved with conservation efforts for the Broadtoothed Rat, which is classified as vulnerable in the wild.”

Role // Mackinnon keeps foxes, cats and other predators away from the self-sustaining population of Eastern Barred Bandicoots (and sheep) that live with him on an 80-hectare property in Skipton.

Qualifications // Moss was

originally recruited from a rescue organisation, his boundless energy making him unsuitable for life as a pet. But that energy, along with his ability to ignore distractions, is ideal for Detection Dog duties.

Training // It takes around a year

to train a Detection Dog, with positive reinforcement and rewards ensuring Moss has plenty of fun. “First we work out what each dog likes best, which in Moss’s case is food and attention,” Naomi says. “Then we teach him that when he smells a certain target, he gets his favourite thing.”

Skills // Moss needs to have a solid

safety stop, have perfect recall, be able to survey large areas and locate small creatures or objects quickly, and be able to communicate what he’s found with a passive alert – for example, when Moss smells his target he sits and hovers his nose above it.

Likes // As a typical Labrador, Moss loves food but also has a soft spot for toys. His favourite game is tug of war.

This year, Eastern Barred Bandicoots will be released into the care of Guardian Dogs at two more sites in western Victoria. Guardian Dog Program Coordinator Dave Williams says that if they continue to keep predators at bay, the project could diversify to new locations. Meanwhile, an additional six Detection Dogs are taking part in a world-first trial at Healesville Sanctuary. They are learning to detect hormone traces in the faeces of female Tasmanian Devils to determine whether they’re in oestrus or lactating. If the trial goes well, this method could be applied to other captive species. Watch this space.

Qualifications // Guardian

Dog Program Coordinator Dave Williams says Mackinnon was handpicked for the job when he was a puppy, because “he was calm, confident and independent”.

Training // While there’s no need to

teach a Maremma to guard and protect – it’s just part of their nature – it does take three to four years for them to establish reliable behaviours and finish being an awkward teenager.

Skills // Mackinnon instinctively


bonds with certain species – like bandicoots and sheep – but excludes others, like foxes.

Zoos Victoria would like to thank its donors for their contribution to these programs, including The Scobie & Claire Mackinnon Trust, The Dyson Bequest, The Standish Family Fund (part of the Australian Communities Foundation), Australian Research Council, Australian Government, Victorian Government and John Cochrane.

Temperament // Mackinnon is a trustworthy leader and serious sentinel. “He’s very territorial and doesn’t like other canids (which is a mammal of the dog family, such as a fox) in his patch,” Dave adds, “which is why he chases foxes away.” Likes // This watchful guardian is



happiest when sitting under a tree with his best friend (and fellow Guardian Dog) Quinta, keeping an eye on his sheep. He also loves belly rubs and bones. ZN

Find out more about how the Guardian Dogs are protecting the bandicoots. Watch it here




Helping the

HELMETED HONEYEATER Affectionately known as the HeHo, the Helmeted Honeyeater population is growing in numbers thanks to a little help from its two-legged friends. WORDS Healesville

Sanctuary Senior Reporter, Madeleine De Gabriele

HeHo facts •

In the wild, Helmeted Honeyeaters eat eucalyptus sap, insects and flower nectar. They rely on specific native trees and plants for food and shelter, and when those plants decline so do the honeyeaters.

Zoos Victoria began a recovery program for the Helmeted Honeyeater in 1989.



very year, Keepers from Healesville Sanctuary trek out to Yellingbo Conservation Nature Reserve, in the far east of Victoria’s forest mountains. In the muted greens and browns of the forest, they release tiny birds that dart into the trees, streaks of yellow. These are Helmeted Honeyeaters, one of Australia’s rarest birds and Victoria’s state faunal bird emblem. Their ‘helmet’ is a crown of vivid yellow feathers with distinctive tufts over their ears, with a soft black mask across their eyes. The yearly ritual of release has more than tripled the population of Helmeted Honeyeaters, also referred to as HeHos, in the wild over the past seven years, from an astonishing low of 60 (in the year 2013) to more than 200 in 2021. Breeding birds in captivity that can survive and thrive in the wild is a delicate process. Housing the HeHos at Healesville Sanctuary means also exposing them to the natural world as much as possible – which is achieved using a purpose-built aviary with open mesh along one long side.

“We take a very hands-off approach with the Helmeted Honeyeaters,” says Sanctuary vet Dr Lee Peacock. “In the wild they’ll need to stay away from people and predators to be safe, so we don’t want to teach them to come up to humans for food.” With their open-air aviary, the honeyeaters can also learn how to interact with other wild birds and animals, Dr Peacock says. “They can hear the local wild birds give alarm calls when they see an eagle, for example, and they learn to hide. “They’re not in any actual danger at the Sanctuary, but when they’re in the wild they’ll need to protect themselves from potential predators.” Helmeted Honeyeaters form long-term partnerships in breeding pairs. Once the females lay their eggs, they keep them warm in the nest for 14 days. It takes another 14 days for the chicks to grow big enough to ‘fledge’ and leave the nest. The breeding pair will lay another clutch of eggs and begin the process again, up to four times in a breeding season. These chicks are carefully monitored by Keepers and vets to make sure they’re fit


Helmeted Honeyeater release Watch how the Zoos Victoria team prepared to release these rare birds into the wild. Watch it here

enough to survive in the wild. Each bird is tagged with a little plastic, non-invasive, foot cuff so researchers can keep track of the wild population. Monitoring the wild population means scientists can determine the success of the release program. Land clearing and other threats to native trees mean wild Helmeted Honeyeaters are now only found in one place in Australia. With planting and cultivation of trees, Zoos Victoria is working with partners – including The Myer Foundation, Merrin Foundation, Margaret S. Ross AM and the Victorian Government – to gradually expand that suitable area, to give Helmeted Honeyeaters more land to live in. ZN

The biggest threat to Helmeted Honeyeaters is the historic loss of the dense shrubs they use for nesting and as a source of food.

– a layer of bushes and shrubs that grow under the forest canopy and provide food, nesting material and shelter.

To combat this threat, Zoos Victoria has turned to the community for help in creating more suitable habitat. In 2019 members and visitors to Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo bought 5,000 tote bags from the Totes for Wildlife campaign. Every tote bag sold provides funds for a tree to be purchased, allowing 5,000 trees to be planted to help these birds.

The first tree to be planted as a result of Totes for Wildlife was a Prickly Currant-bush, a tough native shrub that produces bright red berries. Each of the tree species planted was carefully selected to thrive in Victoria’s forests and provide crucial support to all local animals, as well as Helmeted Honeyeaters.

In December 2020, planting began within Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve, led by recovery team partner, Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater. An area near Ewen Road had been identified as a possible future release site for Helmeted Honeyeaters, but it needed a little more work to be suitable. Ewen Road had plenty of big, old trees, but it needed smaller plants to create an ‘understory’

Creating new habitat for Helmeted Honeyeaters is vital in helping these rare birds fight extinction. By expanding the area and number of places they live, we can give them the best chance to thrive by themselves in the wild, where they belong.

Every tote bag sold provides funds for a tree to be purchased.

fyi YOU CAN HELP! By purchasing a Totes for Wildlife bag at any Zoo retail store or at zoo.org.au/shop




Sleepover at the zoo

Our editor spent a night slumbering with the animals at Werribee Open Range Zoo and you can too. WORDS Georgia

Lejeune   PHOTOGRAPHY Cormac Hanrahan


or someone who has never been on a reallife safari, the Slumber Safari at Werribee Open Range Zoo seemed pretty close to the real thing. With international borders firmly closed for the time being, setting out on an Australian-based African safari trip provided an unexpected adventure close to home. Running between Thursday and Sunday each week (for single overnight stays), the experience is perfect for a romantic getaway for two or a fun night away with the kids. My overnight bag was packed and my sense of adventure firmly in check.


Oh wow!

Slumber highlights

Slumber in style

After checking in to basecamp, we were taken to our accommodation for the night – a large canvas safari tent with separate private bathroom facility overlooking the Werribee Open Range Zoo Savannah. The sizeable safari tents can accommodate up to five people – with room to move. This is camping at its most comfortable – including electric lights, heating/ cooling and the option to pre-warm the bed with an electric blanket. The safari-style tent adds to the authenticity of the experience and means you feel closer to the surrounding nature – especially when possums can be heard scurrying nearby at night and the sound of a lion’s roar heralds the morning.

Encounters with animals

The group piled into our private safari bus for a tour of the savannah – spotting several giraffes waiting for their dinner, a group of animals lounging by the waterhole and a particularly excitable zebra. A surprise visit to Ungana, the male Southern White Rhinoceros, was one of the exclusive animal encounters our group experienced. We were asked to approach Ungana slowly and quietly to ensure he wasn’t startled by the group of strangers visiting his home. Being so close to this giant made even the most energetic member of the group silent with awe. An evening walk through the Zoo allowed us to view the animals settling in for the night and explore

quiet corners. Day two provided another exclusive animal encounter with a visit to the hippo area where mother Primrose and her two daughters (Tulip and Lotus) were enjoying their breakfast. The wellbeing of the animals is of high priority to Keepers at all three zoos, which is why encounters adopt an ‘animal-led’ policy. If an animal isn’t feeling up to meeting a group of humans, the plans for the day will shift slightly according to the animal’s needs, meaning no two experiences at the Slumber Safari are alike.

Eat and drink

A glass of bubbly and an antipasto platter set the tone for our evening of charm and adventure. Usually a banquet-style meal, dinner and dessert were served individually to accommodate current COVID-safe guidelines. The evening ended with marshmallows toasted on the campfire and a promise of a hot breakfast early the next morning. ZN

fyi MEMBERS GET MORE! Members receive 10% discount on Slumber Safari. For more detail including prices and availability visit zoo.org.au.

Waking to the sound of lions roaring in the distance as we were tucked up in our safari tent felt like a real savannah experience. Exploring the Zoo at twilight and early in the morning. We were given a private window into the world of the animals. Sitting on the balcony of our safari tent and looking across the savannah at sunset – you could have sworn we were in Africa. Access to Werribee Open Range Zoo after the Slumber Safari ended. The fun continued all through the next day.




Much ado

ABOUT POO Ever wondered what the Keepers do with all that animal poo? We get to the bottom of the waste management program at Melbourne Zoo. WORDS

Melbourne Zoo Senior Reporter, Gus Goswell


Jo Howell

How the poo is collected and used •

When it comes to collecting poo, it’s a big job every day. Depending on the size and weight of the poo, Keepers might use shovels, wheelbarrows, rakes or buckets. The elephant Keepers at Melbourne Zoo use a motorised buggy. Some raw manures are used as sensory enrichment for the animals. The tigers are especially fascinated by sniffing the manure of animals that in the wild could be their prey.


Future plant food


here’s an old joke about Zoo Keepers that they could be more correctly known as Poo Keepers, such is the amount of time they spend cleaning up after the animals they care for. And poo – or manure, as it’s more commonly called – is a popular topic at Zoos Victoria. A giraffe’s poo is quite dainty, whereas an elephant’s poo is, predictably, huge. Poo is also surprisingly useful. Zoo vets and Keepers might, for instance, study a koala’s scat to find out more about its health and condition. And poo is also valuable for another reason – rather than being thrown away, it’s carefully collected for some very important purposes, including helping Zoos Victoria strive towards its ‘zero waste to landfill’ target.

Senior Sustainability and Environment Manager at Melbourne Zoo, Thomas Meek, says nearly all the manure from the animals at the Zoo is turned into compost. “Every day the Keepers collect the poo and place it in special green bins or manure bays,” Thomas says. “The manure is collected by trucks and taken to the composting unit on the Multi Use Recycling Facility (known on site as the ‘Hot Rot’). It’s then combined with garden clippings, hay, food waste and compostable packaging and added to the composting unit. The composting unit pumps air in and lets microbes grow and thrive. These microbes eat the poo and food waste, turning it into compost humus or soil that helps plants to grow.” The compost is then spread around the Zoo’s gardens to supply nutrients to plants,

Poo facts

Wipe for Wildlife Talking of poo, have you heard of Zoos Victoria’s Wipe for Wildlife initiative? It’s all about drawing attention to the toilet paper we use, encouraging animal-lovers to make a wildlifefriendly switch to recycled toilet paper. And more than 250,000 people have already committed to doing just that. Trees are important in preventing soil erosion and keeping our air clean. So why would we cut them down for toilet paper? Recycled toilet paper is made from post-consumer waste like text books and office paper. Switching to recycled toilet paper is a simple but effective action we can take to help protect the homes of native wildlife. Find out more at


and some is bagged and sold at nurseries as a specially-branded ‘Zoo Gro’ compost for home gardeners. “We are very proud of our compost,” he says. Healesville Sanctuary and Werribee Open Range Zoo also contribute to this Zoos Victoria-wide initiative, sending manure, used animal bedding materials, compostable coffee cups and other packing to the Melbourne Zoo composting plant. Werribee Open Range Zoo’s Sustainability Manager, Tony Caon, says some of those valuable composting ingredients are then reused at Werribee, neatly completing a sustainability circle. “The output of the composting process is used at our browse plantation that grows trees to feed our animals,” says Tony. “We use approximately 130 tonnes per year, at Werribee Open Range Zoo, of this special zoo compost on the browse plantation.” So, whether you’re visiting Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne Zoo or Werribee Open Range Zoo, you can be sure that behind the scenes there’s a lot of thought and energy going into making the most of every animal’s daily deposits. It’s thanks to support from donor Yulgilbar Foundation that the Melbourne Zoo Multi Use Recycling Facility was built and is able to contribute to continuing Zoos Victoria’s carbon neutral status. ZN

Arm yourself with this animal scatology

Caterpillar poo is also known as “frass”.

A wombat’s poo is shaped like a cube and is often used to attract a mate and mark their territory outside a burrow.

Hippos typically spin their tail while pooping. This will spray their faeces up to 10 metres away.

fyi BUY ZOO GRO You can take advantage of the Zoo Gro effect at home. The Zoos Victoria branded Zoo Gro compost is available from selected nurseries and garden centres. Perfect for creating healthy soil for happy plants.

A pile of adult elephant poo weighs approximately 15kg.





Meet our cover star!

SNAP happy We spoke with two of our members whose winning photographs appear in the 2021 Zoo Calendar and asked them what it takes to get a great shot.


Send us your pics Entries are open for the 2022 Zoo Calendar. Find out the terms and conditions and enter the competition for the chance to have your photo featured. Visit zoo. org.au/member-photo -competition

Happy Hippos Gayle Turner

Photo by Zoo Member Tania Bahr-Vollrath, Lemur, Melbourne Zoo

Choosing to stay behind when her camera club jumped on the safari bus at Werribee Open Range Zoo gave Gayle the rare opportunity to capture the hippos mid-play. The unique image of the two young girls splashing about, with mouths wide open, was Gayle’s husband Noel’s choice for submission into the competition. Receiving the news that her photograph had made it into the calendar was bittersweet for Gayle, having lost Noel suddenly in March 2020 – amid the strict lockdown measures in Australia. “Noel always chose one photo when I entered something and I chose the other,” says Gayle. “And that’s the one he chose. He liked that one.”

Gayle and Noel

Starting out as an amateur photographer five years ago, Gayle joined a camera club that regularly took trips to Werribee Open Range Zoo to practise shooting the animals. A quiet and considered family man, Noel was Gayle’s biggest supporter. “He was very proud of my photography,” she says, “and I can’t say I’m an expert photographer, but he was very proud of it.” Next year would have marked Noel and Gayle’s 50th wedding anniversary. Gayle feels a mixture of emotions knowing Noel’s preferred photo is featured in the 2021 calendar. “It is an honour to be chosen and even more so that it was a photo that he chose,” says Gayle. The photograph is in memory of Noel Turner (25.12.1951 – 29.03.2020).



SEPTEMBER Helmeted Honeyeater Joe Lewit

We love your photos and stories — keep tagging #zoomember so we can share your stories.

Too cute!

Joe’s father actively encouraged his son’s interest in photography by handing him the family Kodak Box Brownie to practise with when they were out and about. Now a retired architect, Joe never sought a profession in photography yet his passion for the medium has been a lifelong companion.

Tiny zoo explorer! @our_wild_lif3

“Probably the highlight of my career photographing animals, so far, has been the African photo safaris that I was privileged to go on – which were mentored by professional wildlife photographers who were very generous in sharing their knowledge and tips,” says Joe. Encouraged by his daughter to become a member, a trip to Melbourne Zoo with his two grandchildren sealed the deal – “We had a thoroughly delightful day,” says Joe. He says it took patience to get the right shot of the Helmeted Honeyeater at Healesville Sanctuary. “I took some time photographing it, because I’m well aware that it’s endangered and that it’s been successfully captive-bred and released into the wild,” says Joe. “And, of course, it’s the Victoria faunal emblem, so it’s got all sorts of special attributes.” Joe has been encouraging his grandchildren to take up wildlife photography and has even bought them waterproof digital cameras for birthday presents. “I’m looking forward to getting back to all three zoo properties with my camera gear and just doing it over and over again with grandkids in tow. It’s one of the pleasures of life.”

“I took some time photographing it, because I’m well aware that it’s endangered and that it’s been successfully captive-bred and released into the wild.”

Family fun @little.wildlingz


Give us a grin. @dearne_n



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