Toledo Zoo visitors can take a walk on the wild side — Australian style — starting Friday.
The Wild Walkabout exhibit debuts with an opening weekend celebration that includes family activities and live entertainment.
Zookeeper talks and animal training demonstrations will bring visitors up close and personal with more than 50 species from Australia, including a 17-foot-long saltwater crocodile named Baru (pronounced Bah-roo) who was brought to Toledo by Block Communications Inc. His name is an indigenous Australian word for saltwater crocodile.
Unlike some of the animals from the Down Under, Baru is a new permanent resident in the Reptile House. He is making himself at home in the 1,250-square-foot solarium with an 18,000 gallon pool. He arrived April 5 but has yet to go on public exhibit.
“He’s an absolutely beautiful animal," Zoo Executive Director Jeff Sailer said.
Also in the Reptile House, visitors can check out some of Australia’s deadliest snakes, including the death adder, coastal taipan, and green tree python.
The zoo-wide exhibit will include wallabies, dingoes, sugar gliders, and cassowaries.
At the Bennett's wallaby exhibit near the aviary, visitors can walk among the gentle marsupials that are cousins to kangaroos. The social animals hang out in groups that are called a “mob,” said Brian Kollar, lead programmatic zookeeper.
The females carry their offspring, called joeys, in pouches, he said. As of a week before the opening, there was one female with a joey. He may be completely graduated from the pouch by the time of the opening, Mr. Kollar said. His mother was curious about the visitors to the exhibit, mainly because she associated the zookeeper with food. “She is eating for two, after all,” Mr. Kollar said.
The wallabies eat a wide variety of items including a dry pellet food which is like dog food, along with a big salad including spinach, lettuce, bananas, celery, cucumbers, carrots, rye crackers and bread.
Nearby, visitors can check out the double-wattled cassowaries. These large, colorful, and primitive-looking birds have a knack for leaping up feet-first and using dagger-like middle claws to strike their enemies. Other featured birds include the birds of paradise, kookaburra, and tawny frogmouth.
Over by Tiger Terrace, visitors can see the Zoo’s new dingoes. They might look like domestic dogs — they resemble a small German shepherd mix — but their isolated life in Australia has let them keep some unusual wild characteristics. They are more flexible than your typical house dog and have great climbing abilities.
The two in Toledo are a mating pair, so the zoo could end up with puppies next year, said Kristin Pittman, a small mammal zookeeper. Females only go into heat once a year and when 11-month-old Tawny cycled, they thought she was too young to get pregnant so they prevented the pair from mating.
The male, Indigo, is more wary of humans than his female friend. The two are being taught to be comfortable wearing harnesses and leashes because they will be walked from their exhibit over to Nature’s Neighborhood for programs, Ms. Pittman said.
“We are also teaching them some basic obedience,” Ms. Pittman said. “They came already knowing ‘sit’ and we have been working on ‘stay.’”
Visitors can take a break in the Museum of Science with a Great Barrier Reef exhibit that showcases the intrigue of Australia’s coastal waters.
Contact Tanya Irwin at email@example.com, 419-724-6066 or on Twitter @TanyaIrwin