David Fleay, Naturalist and Scientist, led an extraordinary life primarily focused on animals and had an immense interest in endangered species. As his expert reputation grew he was asked to design and establish the Australian animal section of the Melbourne Zoo. He ended up working there for 4 years until he was let go for practicing his belief that captive animals should be fed a diet parallel to what they would eat in the wild. (go figure)
He went on to direct the Healesville Sanctuary where the animals were kept in large paddocks where visitors could interact freely with the animals. David Fleay added tiger snakes to the sanctuary which were milked for antivenin which was then sent to hospitals around Australia.
One of Fleay’s greatest accomplishments came from his work with platypus. Under his supervision, the first platypus was bread in captivity! (David Fleay the platypus whisperer!)
He later took 3 platypuses to the Bronx zoo and spent time studying animal husbandry across America. Upon his return to Healesville Sanctuary he was dismissed as director for unauthorised donations to various foreign zoos, however he stayed on staff as a consultant. (The allegations were false by the way!)
Fleay also had a private collection of animals but in 1951 the Government of Victoria legislated to prevent private individuals from charging fees for the public to see animal collections. After both blows, Fleay decided it was time to move on and move the collection.
This lead him to move the collection and brought David Fleay north to the Tellebudgra Estuary behind Burleigh. He gradually bought land and overtime the David Fleay Wildlife Park was formed.
That’s it for the history lesson, and it also has brought us up to speed.
With Easter right around the corner I wanted to see what the fuss was with the Easter Bilby so I headed to the David Fleay Wildlife Park to check them and the other animals out.
Upon arrival my first thoughts were about how it didn't feel like a zoo at all. They have done a fantastic job designing the space to make it feel as though you are gently walking though the bush. It’s got a simple charm that is refreshing. The salesy element is no where to be found. It’s simply a place to interact with and learn about he animals native to Australia. No frills, just fun.
When I was planning my visit to the park I was told I cant miss the shows. The first show was at 10:30 am and was called Creatures of the Night. This show highlighted some of Australias cutest and most fascinating nocturnal creatures. It was also where I got my first glimpse of the famed Bilby. It was an ugly little thing but had an irresistible shyness and charm. It’s floppy little ears and fleshy wiggly nose had me dying to pet it. I did, and he was soft as could be.
I also met a Barn Owl, two species of Opossum, a Yellow Bellied Glider and a funny little bird called a Curlew.
After the show I took a stroll down the boardwalks and had a look at all the animals. There were Dingos, Brolgas, Kangaroos, Curlews, Crocs, I could go on, but I think you get the gist.
The design of the park has you incredibly close to these creatures. A qurky little thing I did on my time there was to see how many animals I could get close enough to to see their eyelashes. Surprisingly it was most of them. I stayed away from the crocks, but I don't think they have eyelashes anyway. Seeing their 2nd eyelid would have been cool though!
I was particularly impressed with the care taken in the Nocturnal House. The vegetation is changed on a daily basis to stimulate the animals and mimic a changing environment that would occur naturally. They have also set up a lighting system that changes with the moon cycles. (They really know how to please these animals huh?!)
The big show of the day was the David Fleay Wildlife Show. Co-starring 2 pelicans, Lefty & Righty, a Wedge-tailed Eagle, a Brolga, and a Python. To get the animals to perform, they train them with food and It’s incredibly effective. The show had us laughing and interested.
The sweetest moment of the day was during the Creature Feature. A baby wallaby named Kiki was out and available to pet and hold. If there was an option to adopt, I would have in a heart beat.
Heres a little something I learned on my trip to David Fleays Wildlife Park is that some female mammals can practice something called embryonic diapause. This is the unusual ability to delay birth of their baby until their previous baby has left the pouch (marsupials) or environmental conditions improve. Pretty cool huh?!
Judging from the wide array of ages with smiles on their faces, I can safely say, David Fleay’s Wildlife Park is an all ages activity and completely worth visiting.
During the Easter Holiday’s adults are in at kids prices ($9.55) and there is a whole program for Junior Rangers. Check it out HERE.
- Located at West Burleigh Road, West Burleigh 4220. 07 5576 2411
If you are wanting to help save the precious Bilbies from becoming extinct, there are plenty of ways to help.
This easter, make sure to get your Chocolate Easter Bilby! A portion of your purchase will be going to the Save the Bilby Fund! Although semi-hard to find (Ugh) they are around. It feels like the chocolate Bilby is following the real Bilby and becoming extinct. STEP IT UP, STORES! Let’s save the Bilbies!
The Australia Post is selling Australian Bush Friends chocolates and donating to the Save the Bilby Fund. To buy yours click here!
Ahhh come on Woolies. You can make a better Bilby display than that!
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By Marleigh Kelly