Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wildlife Encounters

By Annabelle Mona

Hello family and friends! It is a lovely, sunny day in Sydney where I write from our rooftop veranda of good ol’ Arundel house. We just returned from our weekend excursion to the Blue Mountains, which is the closest wildlife preserve to the city containing some of the oldest geological history on the record. I think my favorite part of the excursion was the Jenolan caves. Extravagant crystal formations in the caves reminded the early explorers of the jewels from the orient so the caverns are aptly named Persia, Egypt, and India. It is believed that there are even more caverns of crystal under the rocks but we have yet to find them so I would suggest getting your caving gloves and headlamps on and coming down to Australia because you might get lucky bumbling down around the rocks here. Aside from that the canyons of the area are worth mentioning.  More on the Blue Mountain in the next blog post!

Photo courtesy of India Meyers
On Friday we visited Taronga zoo after our introduction to Australian biota. We had to take a ferry across the harbor so we got to see more of the stunning skylines of Sydney. Once we got to the other side we took a gondola ride to the top of the hill. We got to go to a backstage learning center where a zookeeper personally informed us about the nuances of Australian fauna.  We got to pet a sleepy nocturnal possum, a slimy green tree frog, and a friendly echidna among a few other animals. In case you’re not sure what an echidna is, it looks like a porcupine but smaller and with a longer snout.

Photo courtesy of
They are one of two monotremes (mammals that lay eggs) that are indigenous to Australia. The other monotreme is the notorious platypus. We didn’t get to see one of those in the wilds of the Blue Mountains but we did see one in the zoo. I was surprised to find it a bit smaller than I imagined.  We were also in a small enclosure with a few emus and a kangaroo. To say we got up close and personal with the animals might be an understatement.

A kangaroo gives Justin a kiss
Photo courtesy of India Meyers
Such a loving kangaroo
Photo courtesy of India Meyers
Our fearless leader Yueping encounters an emu
Photo courtesy of India Meyers
Today we did a guided tour of the Rocks area of Sydney, which is the site of the first British settlements in Australia. Our tour guide was of aboriginal descent himself and gave us a good idea of what the area was like before the Europeans sailed in. The land was lush and full of resources for the aboriginal people to use in various ways such as weaving clever nets for fishing, boomerangs for hunting, and paper bark canoes for travel. He also made sure we knew the place names for the points of interest, which have been changed. For instance, the site of the Sydney opera house is really Jabagali to the Cadigal aboriginal people.  It was certainly interesting to think about the land before its “discovery” by the Brits. The everyday plants around Sydney are not just there because they look nice but have a use and significance to the aboriginal people.

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