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into the Australian way of life: : THE LOCAL ANGLE

Hop on Over to Zoo for Marsupial Madness

September 20, 2000|VALERIE GUTIERREZ

Australia's most recognizable animals----the kangaroo, wallaby and koala--are among the continent's exports found in the Australia section of the Los Angeles Zoo.

The section is surrounded by indigenous plants, such as the eucalyptus trees that serve as a food for koalas, and gives visitors a feeling of what it's like to be in the Land Down Under.

But good luck seeing the koalas play, because these slow-moving nocturnal creatures sleep 18-20 hours a day. For more action, visit the cassowary, a temperamental bird that can't fly but when threatened can disembowel a person by leaping five feet into the air and attacking with its powerful feet.

The great grey kangaroo found at the zoo is one of the largest living marsupials (pouched mammals), weighing more than 150 pounds. In Australia they are found even on the outskirts of the city. In built-up areas, golf courses have become their last refuge.

The Santa Ana Zoo is home to three wallabies--a species of kangaroo--and Eloy the emu. Emus are the world's second-largest living bird (the ostrich is the largest). Although flightless, the 6-foot-tall emu is a powerful swimmer and runner, with speeds on land in excess of 30 mph.

Both zoos have activities to introduce children to the animals, including breakfast before the zoo opens, followed by a guided tour helping the zookeeper feed the animals, and sleepovers with an evening zoo tour.

Details: Los Angeles Zoo, (323) 644-6400; Santa Ana Zoo, (714) 647-6575.

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