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Not A Ballerina

Close encounters of the Perth Zoo kind

Iknow it’s counter-intuitive to tell you that I met a really cuddly-looking echidna recently, but it’s true. My son and I were invited to a special morning to experience a bunch of the Close Encounter programs run by Perth Zoo, and mid-morning we found ourselves testing out the “Bush Buddies” encounter. After we fed the quokkas, our guide pulled out a sleepy echidna and honestly, I wanted to give her a big pat! (I didn’t, or the cuddly illusion would have been spoilt for sure.)

Perth Zoo has quite the selection of Close Encounter possibilities to give people a chance to have a special experience with their favourite animals. Feeding the giraffes with a group costs as little as $5 a person, but you can go right up to spending six hours shadowing the elephant keepers for $880 (and they only take one person a month for that one!).

After we’d patted the quokkas and wanted to pat the echidna, we moved on to the other side of the zoo and got taken through the back way into the keepers’ area at the orangutan enclosure. If you’ve never dreamed of being a zookeeper then you’ve never been a kid, so just the fact that you get to see behind the scenes a bit is exciting enough. We even saw the shopping list, up on a whiteboard just like ours at home, for the following week’s orangutan requirements (all healthy stuff).

Not A Ballerina

The orangutans Close Encounter is for kids over the age of eight, which is understandable when we see we will be climbing around on the roof of the building. It is definitely the coolest way to see the orangutans, who normally seem kind of far away.

Each of the kids in the group had been given a paper bag full of berries and leaves, and as we came to each different enclosure and learnt about the orangutans in each one, the animals figured out what we were up to and got in position to catch their bag of treats. Our guide told us orangutans have the intelligence of a five-year-old - and they were definitely smart enough to figure out the food situation.

Now my dream is to get dressed up in the zookeepers’ special waders and walk across to see the lemurs sometime - but I’ll have to wait until my son is thirteen for that one. Hmm … or perhaps I could go without him? Just don’t tell him I said that!

Amanda Kendle is a born and bred Perth girl who loves to hang around with her rubbish-truck-loving five-year-old son. Amanda has lived and worked abroad in Asia and Europe and has been blogging about her travels at home and abroad for almost a decade at Not A Ballerina

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