When my brother was little, his favorite bird was the pigeon. It wasn’t the only bird flying around suburban Las Vegas, but perhaps it was the most identifiable to his little blue eyes sans vision correction. Actually, it was probably a good thing he hadn’t discovered glasses yet- because then he never saw the neighbor targeting pigeons with his air rifle whilst jumping on a trampoline.
Anyways, my brother must have known something we didn’t because one of the most surprising discoveries I made at the Taronga Zoo was the Victoria Crowned Pigeon.
Due to the demise of the Dodo (which was also considered a type of pigeon) the Victoria Crowned is the world’s largest pigeon and a surprising stunner at that. It’s the size of a rooster, has electric blue feathers, a mauve chest and a peacock-like spray of feathers atop its head.
Unsurprisingly, it was not a star attraction. However I felt that if the zoo let something this cool pass under the radar, then they must have some really good stuff in store. Besides, even the journey itself to the main entrance was an adventure. We started with a ferry ride across the beautiful Sydney Harbour before transferring to a cable car ride to the top of the park. Since the Taronga Zoo is built on a hill overlooking the Opera House and Downtown Sydney, the view from above was stunning.
Aside from scheduled animal performances, there were also several Keeper Talks throughout the day. While picnicking across from the chimpanzee enclosure, a zookeeper informed us we shared 99% of our DNA with the chimps. It was quite a sobering thought to realize that the real barrier between the chimps and I was not the fence, but a 1% difference in DNA. Had things worked out differently I’d still be hanging from a tree with butt cheeks the shape of a giant lumpy red doughnut, ripe for mating. I have never been more grateful for genetic divergence.
Australia is also home to a disproportionate amount of poisonous animals- and all Most Deadly lists are likely to have a native Aussie. In fact, depending on how the poison is measured, Australia is home to 5-10 of the 10 most deadly snakes in the world.
The one thing the scientific community has agreed on though is that the Inland Taipan is the most poisonous snake- just one drop of venom is strong enough to kill 100 adult men. However, they are so reclusive that there has only ever been one recorded death. In fact, in 2012 when authorities heard a 17 year old boy was bitten in NSW, the first conclusion they reached was that he had kept it as an illegal pet.
So although we were face to face with some of the most poisonous, fastest, and powerful animals in the world, our pathetically feeble human bodies still had the upper hand. Because of this, I was so irritated at all the people tapping on the glass- disrespectful!
Aside from scaring the animals, it didn’t make them pose for photos any better, and it was completely unnecessary to remind them of our dominant place in the evolutionary scale. It’s like insulting someone on the internet. They can’t do anything about it, but if they ever ran into you in the real world they would eviscerate you with their specially adapted raptorial claws.
You’ve been warned.
Don’t tap on the glass.
How to get to the Taronga Zoo: Purchase your combo ferry/Sky Safari/entrance tickets at the ferry terminal in Circular Quay