Sunday, August 9, 2009
Kangaroo Conservation Center in North Georgia
Kangaroos are not native to Georgia. I suspect you knew that kangaroos are not native to Georgia, but several live here and are now born here. Four days ago we went to visit them. We drove 1 ½ hours north to the picturesque foothills of the Southern Appalachian Mountains where we found the Kangaroo Conservation Center (KCC). There, in Dawsonville (Ga.) the center has assembled the largest collection of kangaroos outside of Australia. The center is located on 87 beautifully landscaped acres with a lake and rolling hills. (Click on all the pictures to enlarge them.)
We felt like we were in an “Aussie Adventure” as the leaflet advertised, as we walked to the Billabong (watering hole) which is a walk-through exhibit of Australian birds, reptiles, and plants. First we met a Blue-crowned Pigeon on the path – native to New Guinea it is the largest species of pigeon in the world.
Then we gave the right of way to a Buff-banded Rail who was on its way to the watering hole.
Before we left we passed two Australian reptiles that did not even bother to look at us – or to run away.
Walking back to the KangaRanger area to take our guided tram ride, we passed the butterfly garden.
Our guide gave us many facts about the kangaroos that we did not know. The ride took a half hour and she did not stop speaking, but I’ll try to be brief. Like the koalas, wombats and possums the kangaroos are marsupials from the macropod (large foot) family. Between Australia and New Guinea there are 83 species of macropods of which 9 have become extinct since European settlement and 28 are now threatened - 1/3 could be gone in the coming years. The name kangaroo comes from the Aboriginal word gangurru which describes the Grey Kangaroo.
Our guide told us that the male kangaroo is called a buck , the female a doe and the baby kangaroo a joey. Kangaroos are very social and like to live in a group which is called a “mob”. The female can have three babies at the same time: an embryo awaiting birth, a young one in the pouch attached to a teat and an older joey living outside her pouch but still dependent on her milk. I did not know that she could halt the birth of an embryo, or freeze its development during a period of drought or until the previous joey is ready to leave the pouch. Other interesting facts are that her teats will stretch to fit each individual joey and she can produce different kind of milk simultaneously to feed the older joey and the newborn – a newborn joey is the size of a lima bean.
The KCC has different species of kangaroos, actually 12 different species, and has been raising them for 26 years. They range from the tiniest brush-tail bettong to the 190 pound Red Kangaroo. I could not take a picture of the small bettong as it was asleep in his nest, but here is a picture from the KCC.
Our guide knew each one by their name but it’s hard for me to distinguish the species, so I’ll just show you the pictures I took. We walked on the ¼ mile path “Aussie Walkabout” and saw quite a few animals, most of them resting in the warm sun. The animals are meticulously cared for as well as the grounds and it was a very enjoyable walk. (Don't forget to click on the pictures to enlarge them.)
Kangaroos are the only large animals to use hopping to move about and they move their back legs together, not one at a time. When they move slowly, though, they can use their tail as an extra leg or use it when standing as a means of support. They can reach speeds of 40 MPH (between 60 and 70 km/h.)
The kangaroo is a national symbol for Australia and has been important in the Aborigine culture. Below is a picture of a painting called “Kangaroo Spirit” by Edward Blitner, who is an Australian Aborigine painter from the Naiyarlindji country (top end of Australia.) . The kangaroo has spiritual significance for the Aboriginal people as it is associated with many of their “dreamtime” stories. They believe in parallel time, one being the daily time and the other an infinite spiritual time called “dreamtime” – land, people and animals are all connected as is the past to the present.
As we were leaving we walked close to the Australian Bird Aviary. The Rose Breasted Cockatoo flew over so we could admire him.
Next, we stopped at the Blue-winged Kookaburras. I started to whistle a little tune and the female (?) came closer to listen to me
Then she called out to her mate to come out and listen to the weird whistling lady
… and sure enough we saw the other kookaburra’s head coming to have a look
A deer was eating grass close to the picnic area
then came closer to us and he let me pet him.
If you would like to learn more about the history of the KCC center, please click on their web site here then click on “Our History.”
While researching kangaroo facts I found out that they are being killed in Australia and turned into pet food and leather for sport shoes. There is more information on the site “Save the Kangaroo” sponsored by Sir Paul McCartney. There is also a petition site for saving the kangaroos, click here.