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Which are the 5 happiest animals on earth?

The world is filled with wild encounters great and small. It's time to meet some of the animal kingdom's most cheerful stars.

James the Koala

Symbio Zoo, Wollongong, NSW
For truly happy animals you can't pass Symbio Zoo, just outside Sydney between Sutherland and Wollongong. This haven runs a unique 'Out and About with Animals' campaign that takes animals out of their enclosures to enjoy new sights, smells and sounds, which ultimately makes them feel happier and more enriched. The latest star of this campaign is James the koala, who was taken to Bald Hill Lookout in the Illawarra region to lap up the views. While he may not have known it, this region was also where the first documented koala sighting happened in 1803 - making it known as the birthplace of koalas. Keep your eyes peeled for other Symbio adventures, like Millie the wombat's adventure to Wollongong and an albino echidna's waterfall escapade. Like that's not happy enough, Symbio is also home to three Red Pandas - Pabu, Indira and Chori - that have been nicknamed the 'happiest animals on earth' by staff and visitors because of their camera-loving nature which finds them smiling wide any time they spot a camera. To get the best happy snap, families should book a behind-the-scenes encounter.

Penguins galore

Sea World & SEA LIFE Melbourne
After watching movies like 'Happy Feet' or 'Surf's Up' it's easy to imagine penguins happily going about their daily business. It's even easier to imagine it after a trip to Sea World or SEA LIFE Melbourne. At the latter, the waddling wonders celebrated World Penguin Day (25 April) with a party in the sub-Antarctic Playground, decked out with extra play pools and climbing mounds for the occasion. However, any day is great for visiting these penguins' state-of-the-art exhibit filled with cheeky King and Gentoo breeds, including two new King Penguin chicks who have recently joined the gang. See them up close at daily feeds and talks at 11.30am and 3.30pm, or purchase a Penguin Passport that lets you join your tuxedoed friends on the ice! Meanwhile, Sea World on the Gold Coast has this year welcomed its first King Penguin chick to proud parents Leon and Frank. The new fluff ball was welcomed into the family of penguins that make their home in the park's $12 million Penguin Encounter exhibit - a frozen wonderland that keeps all inhabitants waddling around with a spring in their webbed step.

Hunter and Clarence
(aka Spot and Stripe)

Australia Zoo
Television buffs may already know about two of Australia Zoo's happiest stars, Hunter and Clarence, who appeared on BBC2's 'Tigers About the House' under their nicknames Spot and Stripe. Seeing there are as few as 400 Sumatran tigers remaining in the wild, the survival of these two paw-footed friends has always been extremely important. As such, they were taken into the home of tiger expert Giles Clark and hand-raised by his family. What a unique way for wild cubs to be reared! Watching the show you see all the highs and lows, tears and smiles, and though they now look a little different ' weighing 100kg each ' you can see them up close back in their Australia Zoo home, which was the backdrop for the show back in late 2013. The show also aired on Channel Nine's GEM, but don't be dismayed if you missed it as it's now available on DVD through the Australia Zoo online store, with proceeds going towards conservation projects.

Intergalactic felines

Catmosphere, Thailand
If you love cats, chances are you've heard of the cat-cafe craze that is sweeping the globe ' and Sydney is soon to be the hot new destination on the scene with the arrival of Catmosphere. While you can't enjoy it just yet, families can find a bunch of happy intergalactic-named cats at the original Catmosphere cafe in Chiang Mai. Not only does it serve up a mean ice coffee, you can enjoy it with a generous side of cat cuddles from one of its 19 feline occupants. Prepare for your visit by jumping on its website, where you'll find a small bio on each of the cats, including ratings on how cuddly, playful, wild and sleepy they are. For example, among the throng of cats with names like Boba, Darth and Yoda, you'll find the Siamese 'Magician' Luna who 'has the skill of enchanting the hearts of fellow cats using her magical stare' and has a certified five-star cuddly rating. Oh, and it also has a Cat Cinema!

Monkeys in the wild

The Datai Langkawi, Malaysia
If happy animals thrive in happy homes, those that live among the dense emerald rainforest of The Datai Langkawi in Malaysia must be among the happiest on the planet. Vibrant birds chirp colourful songs; monkeys playfully go about their day-to-day mischief; and visiting families are able to get in on the action by opting for a Wildlife Discovery package that is available until 22 December. With this package, one morning or evening you'll set out with Irshad Mobarak, the resort's resident naturalist, uncovering the secrets of the animal kingdom that lie beneath the canopy. Another day you'll venture into the Andaman Sea with marine biologist Jonathan Chandrasakran, learning all about the world below. When not tied up with these activities, you can tour the nearby mangroves, or simply relax in the comforts of The Datai and its Eden-esque location. Indeed, it's one thing to see the happiest animals on earth, and another thing entirely to understand what makes them so.

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