Australia: A Night at the Taronga Zoo

Submitted by Harrison Crum on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia…

This past Monday, I traveled to the Taronga Zoo to participate in their roar & snore overnight event. I had the opportunity to stay overnight at the zoo and experience the nightlife of all the animals and participate in the morning duties that the staff go through. We watched as possums climbed into trees and penguins nestled their eggs. Our guides allowed us to touch numerous animals, including a Children’s Python, bearded dragon, and a possum that was only just recently welcomed to the zoo. During the cool of the night, many animals that are not usually out and about were exploring their enclosures. One such creature was the Bongo, which typically confines itself to a corner of its enclosure during the daytime. We saw this animal grazing on the various foods around it and scratching its back with its large horns. It was truly amazing to watch, especially given that there are only about 80 more of these creatures in the world. Back at our tents, there was an incredible view. We could see the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, and the rest of the city.

In the morning, we were treated to a few behind the scenes events throughout the zoo. The most notable was when we traveled to see the giraffes. We were given the rare opportunity to feed the two giraffes lettuce. I held out my hand with the lettuce and each of the giraffes bent their long necks down and used their tongues to grab it. We learned more about the giraffe, including how the brown patches on their fur help to keep them warm during the cool nights, whereas the white stripes around their bodies travel along their blood vessels to keep their blood cool during the extreme heat. This was such a surreal experience, and an extremely unique opportunity given that the Taronga Zoo is home to many animals that are not seen anywhere else, either in the wild or in other zoos. I have seen so many new and fascinating animals since I’ve been in Australia and I’ve had an extraordinary time.

Two giraffes at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney