Meeting Mali at Melbourne Zoo

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Baby Mail is so cute 2Last month Tash and I finally got to meet Mali, Melbourne Zoo‘s newest addition to the herd that calls the Trail of the Elephants home. In fact, according to the Melbourne Zoo website, she is the first elephant born in the zoo’s 147-year history.

The ‘celebelephant’ (celebrity elephant) did not disappoint. She is hairy and cute and playful — full of personality according to the commentary kept up by the keepers.

Apparently elephants are allo-parents, that is, the whole tribe looks after the babies–like the ‘sparents’ (spare parents) Mia Freedman writes about. In this picture, Mali is running around with her grandmother, which was apt, seeing as how that’s what Tash was doing a lot of that same week: my mother was visiting from NSW and came to the zoo with us.

We didn’t have to queue for long at all to see Mali. She is currently on show from 11 am-3 pm.

We’ve been taking Tash to the Melbourne Zoo since she was a toddler and just decided to renew our Friends of the Zoo membership for another year. It pays for itself within a few visits, and given we are only two train stations away, we can afford to go on the spur of the moment, even for a short visit.

Tash and the tortoisesMelbourne Zoo is the country’s oldest. I have a strong memory of visiting as a child, seeing the same giant tortoises, who are now in their seventies. One of the old-style enclosures has been preserved for the record, and I remember, too, watching the desperate pacing of the big cats in those concrete pens. I know zoos are artificial, imperfect and don’t come close to the thrill of seeing wild creatures in their natural element. But each visit renews my sense of awe at the brilliant diversity of life on this planet and impels to do more to contribute to the conservation of that diversity.

We are loving the new marine precinct with its seal viewing ‘cinemas’ and tanks of the less showy but equally gorgeous weedy sea dragons. So what if the kids like playing on the pirate ship more than watching the wildlife: I still get to watch the seals.

Tash always wants to see the zebras, while her cousin Vinnie–under the influence of The Lion King–is currently enamoured by the wild dogs that share the lion enclosure.

We all love the reptile house, which like the marine precinct is great to visit regardless of the weather. My personal favourite exhibit is the bright blue poison frog–though on our most recent visit, we were all captivated by the black-headed pythons that were literally climbing the walls.

Zoo May 8But Tash’s very favourite thing at Melbourne Zoo is the orangutan nest. Every time we visit the complex that houses the quiet orangutans and their noisy neighbours, the siamangs, Tash heads straight for the nest, makes a little bed out of the fabric leaves and curls up for a rest. And being under cover, this exhibit can also be visited at this time of year, too.

As an aside, I read recently that a new study, conducted at Melbourne Zoo, suggests orangutans like looking at us as much as we like looking at them. It certainly seems that way in the photo on the right, taken on a visit to the zoo last May. (Tash chose her outfit on that occasion specially to visit the leopards).

And I’ve just read on the Melbourne Zoo website that the new Sumatran tiger clubs have made their public debut. Looks like we’ll be heading back soon…

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