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Australia’s oldest zoo, Melbourne Zoo celebrated its 154th birthday on October 6, 2016. Zoo keepers, staff, and volunteers gathered in the Main Drive to cut the cake, which was decorated with pictures of some of the zoo’s 5,120 animals. The birthday was capped off with the media reveal of five baby penguins, who hatched five weeks ago and have just been moved from their nests to the feeding school.
Modelled after the London Zoo, Melbourne Zoo was founded by the Zoological Society of Victoria and opened on October 6, 1862. Initially, the zoo operated as a place of acclimatisation for animals to recover after the long voyage to Australia. Animals including blackbirds, salmon, goats, pheasants, quail, camels and sheep were put on display, but by the late 1860s, visitors lost interest. With the threat of extinction, the zoo expanded to include exotic animals such as big cats and an elephant named Ranee. In the early 1900s, elephant rides, bear feeding and a cigarette-smoking orangutan were hailed as attractions, but the zoo has since evolved and is now dedicated to conservational work.
Over the past 12 months, Melbourne Zoo’s conservational milestones have included the successful breeding program of the endangered Corroboree and Baw Baw Frogs and successfully breeding the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect. They also implemented the National Recovery Plan to save the world’s most critically endangered crocodile species, the Philippines Crocodile, and released the zoo-bred critically endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoots into protected areas of the wild.
Melbourne Zoo has also stepped up their Don’t Palm us Off campaign which calls for the government to impose mandatory labelling of palm oil on all products. It’s estimated that 50 per cent of items found in Australian supermarkets contains palm oil, which is often labelled as vegetable oil. In November, the government will examine the issue after nine years of campaigning from Melbourne Zoo. Palm oil plantations in South East Asia are responsible for the deaths of 1,000 orangutans per year, and it’s estimated that only 5,000 to 7,000 remain in the world. Melbourne Zoo is asking the public to sign their Don’t Palm us Off campaign.
This year, Melbourne Zoo has also celebrated international events including World Orangutan Day, World Tiger Day, and the Year of the Gibbon, as well as the 30th birthday of Butterfly House, the construction of the Savannah Exhibit deck, and the birth of the adorable Red Panda twins.