Steve lives! (part 2)

“When I visited the ‘Steve Irwin Zoo’, now ‘Australia Zoo’, I was confronted by the tigers. My reaction was to think what have they to do with preserving etc. Australian mammals. A short while later I rethought it and realised he had a much more inclusive attitude of trying to save any species from around the globe than I.”

(Comment by a friend on Steve Irwin)

Australia Zoo doesn’t have just reptiles, nor limit itself to Australian animals. There’s the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), the largest living land lizard, fossils of which have been found in Australia

Komodo dragon

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Steve lives!

“I always had the impression that he was all a big bluff and a publicity hound.”

“A lunatic!”

“Rolling of the eyes and changing channels.”

“All of us thought he was over the top.”

“I gave him more respect as I got to know him better and found out everything he did.”

“I liked that he was honestly and unashamedly who he was, it is often not the case, quite a rare trait.”

“I think the zoo was the money source for his more important work, buying up land to preserve wildlife for the future. ”

“He was good!”

“He knew what he wanted and he knew how to get it.”

“The only image I have of him was his persona in TV. Which was larger than life and a great ambassador for animals enthusiasm and care for Australian wild life. I personally find this almost a charicature but the public needed this to accept the message. I believe … that he has bought and set up a number of properties as sanctuaries. I think the Zoo and the hospital are excellent and have done a great deal to support and promote our wildlife to our public.”

(Opinions of some of my friends when asked what they thought of Steve Irwin)

I too have been a bit cynical about the Steve Irwin phenomenon, until I actually went to Australia Zoo a few weeks ago. He was apparently big in the States, but not so much here. Whenever I saw him on TV (rarely, not because he wasn’t on, but because I didn’t watch), he seemed a bit over the top, with his exaggerated ‘ocker’ accent and behaviour.

But I was saddened when he died. He was apparently the genuine article – what you saw was what you got. No flies on Steve. (Strine seems to arise naturally when thinking of Steve – he’s even mentioned in this page on strine.) It didn’t seem fair that someone with such a passion for his animals, nature education and conservation should be snuffed out so easily. Fortunately his family, friends and staff are just as passionate and are carrying on the work. I had put on my stingray necklace that morning, but fortunately realised the gaffe in time, and took it off.

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Relishing the reptiles

Bear with me before I get to the reptiles. There’s a bit of backstory.

I had heard on the radio on Saturday morning that Ballina Marine Rescue was holding a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training morning, which members of the public could attend for free. Since we live in the boonies, half an hour from the nearest hospital, it seemed like a good idea. My St John’s first aid certificate is way out of date, and I needed an update. Half an hour is too long to wait doing nothing – 3 minutes and the person is experiencing brain damage from lack of oxygen.

Apart from teaching us how to rhythmically compress the chests of dummies, the workshop  also showed us how to use defibrillation machines. These machines are designed for dummies, too – an electronic voice runs you through the procedure, to minimise mistakes, and even counts out loud the pressing of the chest at the correct tempo. (I’d listened to a RadioLab podcast a while ago that said an easy way to remember the correct rhythm was through two songs – “Staying alive” by the Bee Gees (!), and “Another one bites the dust”, by Queen (!!). But I couldn’t sing and count at the same time (I tried), so I’m glad the machine does the counting.)

Anyway, after pressing the plastic, and morning tea, we had a surf-awareness workshop down at the beach, 5 minutes’ walk away. This beach is never patrolled by lifeguards, and the surf is unpredictable and wild at times. Knowledge of how to read the waves is very worthwhile for someone like me who grew up in South Australia where the St Vincent and Spencer Gulfs dampen down any surf, and I didn’t learn to recognise rips or learn what to do if you’re caught in one (“Don’t panic”, and “Let it carry you out the back to the calm water, then you can swim in”, i.e. don’t get exhausted trying to fight against it.)

Three children had gotten into trouble swimming off South Ballina Beach last summer, and both parents drowned trying to save them. The kids survived, to be orphans. So surf-awareness is literally vitally important.

Memorial to two parents who drowned trying to save their kids last summer

After that, we happened to be in the right place and time for a reptile-awareness workshop – it was school holidays and such educational events abound. What a great way to top off the day!

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Reptiles of all kinds at Fernbank

I’m a museum enthusiast, especially natural history museums. I even worked in one once (as a curator’s assistant in the marine invertebrate section of the South Australian Museum). So I was delighted to be taken by Jane while I was staying with her in Atlanta to the Fernbank Natural History Museum.

The museum has impressive art displays – where else can you sip coffee at the feet of life-sized metal dinosaurs …

Heavy metal coffee break

contemplating the ones about to swoop down on you and steal your cake …

Oooh - I see chocolate mud cake! Swoop!

It’s an attractive and well-organised museum. As well as the static exhibits, there was a live exhibit of geckos, in many separate terrariums. I didn’t write down the correct names of the geckos – I was too busy appreciating their marvellous colours and patterns, after I had finally spotted them in their terrariums. It’s amazing how something so colourful can get lost in leaves. I’ve just made up the names to differentiate them.

The texture-iffic gecko

The rock-wall gecko

The orange-spoted gecko (top left, and more top right)

The shy gecko

The bamboo gecko

The brown-spotted gecko

The exhibition had good information boards and lit-from-behind walls of photos of gecko eye patterns …

Gecko eye patterns

and gecko feet patterns …

Gecko feet patterns

and gecko skin patterns …

Gecko skin patterns

Congratulations to the museum for such a colourful, educational and entertaining exhibit.