Sunday, May 8, 2011


“Sure it’s a hell of a bridge, but in Adelaide, we’ve got pandas!”  This was written a massive billboard that I stumbled upon on my very first day in Sydney.  I had literally just come from taking in my first glimpse of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, and the whole scene with the giant bridge right behind the opera house sitting there on the harbour was magical in a way – it was like a big loud voice saying “Hey, Phill – guess what!  You’re actually here!”   Reading this billboard right after that was a bit demoralizing.  Thanks, Adelaide.

After that, I decided that I’d have to check out the Adelaide Zoo whenever I made it down that way.  And when I was in Adelaide last month, I took the opportunity to see what the fuss was all about.  I’ll admit, the pandas were pretty cool…

Wang Wang and Funi (rather unfortunate names) were surprisingly active pandas – running around, posing for photos, and scratching their butts on trees (see video) – not the lethargic creatures that I imagined sitting there eating bamboo all day.  I think they slipped some caffeine into those pandas’ bamboo lunch.

I really don’t know why I took a video of a panda scratching its ass on a tree, but since I did, I figure I’d at least post it here.

Pandamonium hasn’t just invaded the zoo – it’s spread throughout the entire city.  I’ll admit that it’s a pretty big claim to fame to have the only pandas in the entire southern hemisphere, but some of it has gone too far.  One day spa we drove by had a big sign that read “Let us panda to your every need!”  It wasn’t even on a marquee, it was a permanent sign.  Seriously?

Panda billboards, aside from the one that I saw in Sydney, could be found all over Adelaide – starting with the airport when I arrived.  But the best thing about the pandas is their sponsorship by the aforementioned Haigh’s Chocolates.  Pandas are pretty cool creatures, but I can say with much conviction that my favourite panda… is a chocolate panda.

The pandas may have been the biggest attraction at the zoo, but they certainly weren’t the only ones.  The zoo had all of the typical animals:  lions, tigers, bears, tapirs, giraffes, etc.  There were a few strange additions such as chickens… dinner anyone?

And guinea pigs… dinner anyone from Peru?

But, as with any zoo in Australia, the domestic animals are always the highlight for Americans and any other non-Australian.  Kangaroos, emus, koalas, wombats, quokkas, potoroos, etc.  I saw my first tree kangaroo.  Native to northern Queensland and the island of New Guinea, this kangaroo and related species actually live in the trees.

Their cassowary exhibit was simple but the big scary bird inside was much more visible than the one in the Taronga Zoo here in Sydney (it has a plethora of foliage which obscures the view).

There was the endangered yellow-footed rock wallaby.  Good news though:  if the rock wallaby keeps up this behaviour, it shouldn’t be endangered for too much longer.  “Honey, please cover the kids’ eyes quick!”

There was a petting zoo for the kids… and Liz...

And I got to play in the Adelaide Zoo sign – fun!

But the most annoying exhibit was this one:

Liz and I both grew up in Florida and we came all the way here to Adelaide to see none other than the American Alligator.  I could see that in a neighbours’ swimming pool growing up.

I demand a full refund.

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