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The bears.
The bears.
Catriona looks a little scared.
Feeding the cats.


Thursday, November 1, 2001
Catriona stumbles upon a zoo where you can really get close to the animals ... maybe a little too close!

The National Zoo and Aquarium is a family business that opened 10 years ago as just an aquarium. In the past 12 months, they have added the zoo.

It is on seven hectares and is the only one of its kind in Australia where you can see sharks in an aquarium and wild jungle beasts at the one venue.

The animals' enclosures are bigger than at most zoos and many allow the animals to roam freely. Instead of using fences and cages, the animals are kept safe and contained by means of a surrounding moat.

They are all provided with the best and most natural conditions, with lots of greenery and plenty of climbing structures for the athletic creatures.

The nocturnal animals have night dens, and they come and go as they please.

The king of the jungle, the lion, is appropriately given the largest enclosure, and the other animals accept that as being the right and proper thing to do.

As you enter, the monkey enclosure is the first you come across, and that can be a hard place to tear yourself away from. The new additions were born and bred in Australia but are native to South America. They are cheeky capuchins, and they adore fruit and nuts — and the occasional jellybean.

An unusual animal you will see is the tigon, the result of a female lion and male tiger mating. There are two tigons there. They are reputedly very affectionate and have the faded tiger stripes but are physically more akin to a lion. There is also such an animal as a liger, which is the same mating but in reverse. There are none of those at the National Zoo.

There is one sun bear, the world's most endangered thanks to their being a desirable ingredient for soup and medicine. He's doing well and stands a metre tall. The zoo also has European brown bears, which are similar to the grizzly. The male stands 2.5m tall. They are very active during summer and their keepers do various things to make them active, such as burying food and spraying lavender and peppermint.

Some of the beasts you will see during your tour of the zoo are bears, tigons, lions, tigers, monkeys, leopards, llamas, alpacas, mountain lions and the beautiful sun bear. There are also plenty of our own critters to admire, such as dingoes, kangaroos, emus and koalas.

The aquarium has a 300,000-litre shark tank and they are fed regularly by keepers through the open top. There are seven species including a 2.5m leopard shark. They are fed fish, prawns and squid.

Tours are on foot and take around two-and-a-half hours. There are a maximum of eight in a group.


Yarralumla in Australia's Capital Territory.


Zooventure tours cost $75 per person. Bookings are essential.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

National Zoo and Aquarium
Lady Denman Drive, Yarralumla 2600
Ph: (02) 6287 1211 Fax: (02) 6288 0477

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