Most people visit Taronga Zoo to see the animals but when I went along recently I found myself absorbed, not in the caged creatures, but in those which have moved there out of choice.
I spotted over 20 species of birds which have decided that the zoo is to their liking. Brush-turkeys have moved in over the last few years and are now so much part of the zoo that the authorities have accepted them and have even manufactured signs informing the public about the creatures and their messy, scratching habits.
I observed one such brush-turkey working its way through the food provided for the captive quokkas. Having cleaned up, it then hopped over the enclosure fence into the farmyard pens and started on the pig food.
Likewise, common mynas and town pigeons treat the zoo as their home; these opportunists also appear to live on the zoo animals’ food. Both mynas and pigeons looked to be well fed and in good health.
But the cheekiest of the outsiders living in the zoo are the kookaburras which live near the cafe and hunt in pairs. While I kept an eye on one of the birds keeping an eye on me, its partner craftily disappeared in order to attack from behind. A sandwich was almost in my mouth when, with a clatter of wings from over my shoulder, the second bird grabbed my lunch and made off to a nearby roof. Its decoy partner arrived and they enjoyed what I should have enjoyed.
I spent a long time watching Eastern Water Dragons. There are scores at Taronga. Big ones, little ones, fat ones, thin ones. Primeval, terrifying, attractive only to another water dragon, they dashed across the paths or lay motionless while soaking up the sun.
I’d spent so long enjoying the ‘wild’ wildlife that I’d run out of time to view the zoo creatures I’d come to see. I took a quick look at the elephants and then made a decision: I’d go home and return another day when I would concentrate on the penguins and the pangolins, the lemurs and the lions.
I’d give the wild wildlife a miss. Or at least, I’d try.