Cleland Wildlife Park

South Australia

The Cleland Wildlife Park is just outside of Adelaide (there are actually skyline views from the park!) on top of Mount Lofty.  It is a real bush environment and a lot of the animals are free-ranging (all of the kangaroos, emus, birds, etc).  One of the birds was the elusive blue fairy wren, which (barely) stayed still long enough for me to snap its picture.

Swamp Wallabies!  Unlike any wallaby we had ever seen, they were larger, had longer tails, were darker, and had almost fox-like faces.  They had also just been given breakfast and much preferred their oranges to our feed.

Wombats! The Cleland wombat had just gotten her breakfast when we arrived, so she was chomping away on her corn kernels and carrots.  It was cool to see her burrow as well.

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Kangaroo Island Kangaroos!  A smaller, darker species that I’ve fed and petted before (at the Unzoo).  Still really cute and fun to feed.

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Emus!  I was a little cautious of hand feeding an emu (that beak!) but when I did, I realized the emu actually turns its head and comes at your hand with the side of its beak, much less sharp.  Emus make a weird grumbling/Congo drum sound all without opening their mouths–I had no idea where this sound was coming from at first!

Yellow-Tailed Rock Wallaby!  A very shy animal with a very long, yellow, ringed tail.  They hop the same way kangaroos and other wallabies do, but over rocks!  Their balance is incredible.

Fun fact: The wine brand Yellow Tail is named after this animal!

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Potoroos!  An animal I had never heard of before this and they were running freely around the entire park.  They are marsupials and macropods, but they also look like huge rats.  The potoroos came in droves when the food came out.  Being surrounded by them made me feel like the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  At one point, we saw a baby potoroo jump out of its mother’s pouch–adorable.

And a bonus wallaby feeding picture thrown in the mix as well.

Dingos!  A lot of zoos don’t have dingos, so it was nice to see them here.  They had a huge enclosure to run and play in, but chose to laze around instead when we were watching them.

Red Kangaroos!  I was somewhat surprised that the largest and most dangerous kangaroos were out in the open like all the others, but there they were.  The joeys were adorable and it was so cute when they held onto my hand to eat–I guess they can’t balance and dig in at the same time.  And I also fed the largest kangaroo ever; if it stood up, it would be at least 2 meters and his arms muscles were insane.  Another Pied Piper moment when kangaroos hopped up to me and formed a semicircle waiting for their feed.

Koalas!  Cleland is known for their koala programs.  They have an amazing circular display that you can walk completely around and see the koalas only feet away!  The koalas seemed pretty active as well.

And, finally, the best part of the day and the whole reason we went to Cleland—holding koalas!!  It’s illegal to do so in Victoria, so when in South Australia….

Anyway, it was incredible!!!!!  The koala my mom and I held was named Nellie (Nellie and Ellie- it was meant to be!) and she was 3 years old (a teenager!).  When transferring from the keeper, you have to stand still (like a tree) and Nellie will climb onto you.  Then you hold her like you would a baby.  She was pretty heavy, around 7 kgs and so soft.  I had no idea, as I had never been that close to a koala, but they have very small, squinty, watery eyes; they mainly rely on their hearing and sense of smell.  Throughout the whole time I was holding her, she was constantly being fed eucalyptus and the jacket they supplied us with was the right color, so I like to think she felt at home.  A once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.

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