Koala Cuddling!

Well, it’s been a funny couple of days, mainly due to the weather.  Quite honestly, we’ve been having a bit of a monsoon up here in south Queensland.  Non stop rain, rain, rain.  Not cold, but very wet….

So, we’ve largely holed up in Broadbeach, sat on the balcony painting, visiting a mall on the seafront and generally tried to keep dry!  It’s been a bit of a surprise.  We thought we’d be on the beach all the time, but it just hasn’t worked out that way.

Today, however, although it was heavily overcast when we got up, it was dry, so we decided to brave it and visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which is about 75 minutes north of us on the outskirts of Brisbane.  It is, I believe, the only place in Australia where you can actually hold a koala which is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a small girl.

Lone PIne was founded in 1927 to safeguard koalas at a time when they were being slaughtered wholesale by the tens or even hundreds of thousands for their fur.  They would have been easy targets because they just sit up a eucalyptus tree, hardly moving, sleeping 20 out of every 24 hours and even when they do move, they aren’t very fast.  Anyway, you can see lots of them at Lone Pine, both up trees and up artificial treelike structures where the rangers put lots of eucalyptus sprays for them.  It is therefore possible to get very close up to them, much more so than in the wild.  Also, you can pay to have a photo experience which allows you to actually hold a koala in your arms.  Irresistible!

Since 1927 Lone Pine has expanded to house a collection of other Australian animals and birds so its a great place to see them.

We began with the koalas of course.  I’m sure you know that they are not actually bears at all.  They are marsupials, like kangaroos and wallabies.  Which means they give birth to an embryo which then grows to maturity inside a pouch.  Bear or not, they are just the ultimate in cuteness.  Rather fat, very furry, with big black button noses.  Sleepy and dozy looking.  What I didn’t expect, when I came close to my little friend, was how very funky they smell!!!!  Worse than the apes on top of Gibraltar.  It was lovely to have a cuddle with one though, although obviously very strictly controlled.

We had a couple of interesting ranger talks about the koalas.  The males were in trees on one side and the females on the other.  A couple of the females had baby koalas with them which were just adorable.  Others may have had some in the pouch, but they are so small at that point you can’t tell.  They were all clearly very used to being near humans, no fear or discomfort at all.  No hiding.

After the koalas we went off to the kangaroo and wallaby area.  This was a really huge paddock with trees.  There were maybe 40 of them visible and some emu too.  The emu were lying down, which may have been a hint of what was to come… a bit like when you see cows lying down in a field!    We got to about the middle of the huge paddock and the skies opened up again!!! Deluge.  Luckily Bob had bought a couple of rain ponchos so we quickly got those on and then did what the kangaroos were doing and hid under the trees!  I had bought some kangaroo food (looked like dog kibble) so we hand fed them.  They had absolutely no fear of humans at all being born and bred on the reserve and willingly ate out of our hands, very gently too.  There was a baby which we fed. At least I think it was a baby.  It might have been a wallaby.  I can’t tell the difference between a wallaby and a baby kangaroo so… and there was no one out there in the monsoon to ask!  All of them were smaller than the big grey kangaroos we’d seen near Melbourne.

As we made our way back across the field, we found two female kangaroos in a wooden shelter eating hay.  One of them had a joey in her pouch and that was very exciting to see.  At one point he was head first down with just his feet hanging out!

The rain thankfully stopped and we went to see the Australian birds of prey.  They had a Great white sea eagle, a Wedge Tailed Eagle, a Barking Owl and a Kite.  They all flew and soared right over our heads being fed bits of food.  In fact the Wedge Tailed Eagle ate a rat whole in about 2 gulps much to the fascination of the school children in the front row who got a bit sprayed with some meat!  The barking owl had the most amazing yellow eyes.   We managed to see them close up too.

Walking around the rest of the sanctuary we saw a dingo, parrots, kookaburras, lizards, oooh – possums and a Tasmanian Devil.  The possum was much bigger than I expected, like a big hairy pig.  The Tasmanian Devil was fairly sizeable too, and was quite a fast mover.  Their ears go bright red when they are angry, but thankfully we didn’t see this.

There was one inside exhibit for nocturnal animals and that had some snakes and also 2 large tanks with duck billed platypus in.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen one live before.  They were smaller than I expected, hardly bigger than a large fish really.  Very odd looking with their flat nose.  Quite impossible to get a picture of them.  They moved so fast and the lighting was very low.  I tried but they were all blurred…..

Midday we had a picnic beside the river there.  It was lovely.  Really enjoyed our day at Lone Pine.  The rangers were friendly and knowledgeable.  The animals seemed very well cared for and happy.  They have a constant and continuing programme of eucalyptus planting for the sanctuary and have plantations all over the area.  They run a research programme and also education programmes for children.  There were a couple of school parties there at the same time as us.

Headed for home at about 3 just as the clouds started to disperse and blue sky and sun emerged.  Let’s hope its going to stay awhile although the forecasts are a bit iffy.  On the way home we stopped off at a Dan Murphy’s bottle shop (enormous) to get some more wine.  Having some really wonderful bottles here.  Very much enjoying.

A quiet evening tonight.  Grilling steak.  Mango salsa and a potato for Bob.  Tomorrow is our last full day in Broadbeach.  On Friday we head north to Noosa Heads for a few days.  Fingers crossed for the beach or pool tomorrow!





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