Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Taste of Melbourne All Breed Dog Championship Show

22nd April, 2007 was a date that I will always remember. My husband agreed to entertain my desire to attend the local dog show even though he has thousands of other stuffs to do. We left early making our way to the Showgrounds at Ascot Vale. Upon reaching the place, we found the parking lot already full with cars and had to park at the farthest end of the area. A kind lady directed us to building number 15 and 18, where the dog shows had already started. Yes, the Showgrounds of Ascot Vale was truly amazing. It was a truly large area that housed numerous houses for the benefit of showing animals of different kind. There was a horse barn, a race tract, buildings used for conducting exercises for animal and others that I could not determine their functions.

We made our way to building number 15 where most of the larger breeds were shown. Here I met up with Mrs Carole Burke, a very nice and friendly lady who travelled all the way from Frankston to show her 15 month Old English Sheepdog, Ernie, whom she imported from England. From the photos below, you can see that Earnie is a VERY large dog. This dog can grow to a maximum height of 61cm and weight to about 50kgs.

Mrs Carole told me that she actually groomed her dog from 8am to 2pm the day before. Her dog looked so at ease with his surrounding and truthfully, was something that I would want to have to warm me up during the cold winter nights. Just kiss those commercial heaters goodbye!

I can imagine burying myself in Ernie's thick coat and just let him warm me - Nick, my husband, will be so happy as we can cut down on the electricity bill by not turning on the electric blankets and heaters!

There was another OES puppy beside Ernie who was very eager to pose for a snapshot as well. This puppy which is only 6 months old was a very perky fella and loves to lick!

I was also mesmerised by the other large breeds that were showed on that day. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos using our camera flash so the photos did not turn out well.

From building number 15, we made our way to number 18, where they were having the championship for the toy breeds. The Cavelier King Charles Spaniels were beautiful, the Malteses look very regal with their lush white coat and the Silky Terriers, simply adorable.

I had a chance to meet up with Mr. James Carmac of Balkana Kennel. Mr James is the king of Australian Silky Terrier and he was actually mentioned to me by Mrs Connie Redhead who judged the last MKA Dog Championship in Malaysia. At that time I was showing Suki, and Cris was showing Misty. When Mrs Connie approached us, she recommended that we import a Silky from Balkana Kennel which is famous all over Australia to strenghten our kennel reputation as well as use the dog as our own stud dog, so that we could start our own breeding programme. So when I finally got hold of Mr James at the Showgrounds, I was truly ecstatic!

Mr James introduced me to Tommy, his Aus Champion. Unlike the Silkies in Malaysia, Tommy sported a very lush and soft coat that glistered. A further probe revealed that Mr James actually brush his dogs a minimum of once a week - truly amazing as we normally brush our dogs a few times a day!

I asked Mr James whether he has any male show pups for sale and he said that he has one that will be about 8 weeks old by the end of May. The asking price was AUD2 - 2.5K and that could easily translate to RM7.3K! I was shocked but Mr James told me that the linage comes from champion lines and has proven very successful at the showgrounds all around the world! Well, that sums it all I guess. I told him that we will find out about the age limitation to bring in a dog into Malaysia and will get back to him once I get the answers.

Mr James lives in Ballarat, about 2 hours away from where we live at Northcote. So if I were to decide that I want to get the pup from James, it will be very easy for me to visit him at his kennel.

I truly had a wonderful time at the Showgrounds. Even though I was sad for not being able to get as many photos as I could, the memories of it WILL last me a lifetime.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Day At The Zoo

The day Ying, my housemate from Tawau told me that her dad was granted a license to open up a zoo in Tawau, I was overcome with so much joy I started to talk about it to everyone I met irregardless whether they were interested or not. You see, I am an animal lover. Not afraid of the big cats, always find the elephants captivating and think that snakes are the coolest animal (hey, their tiny body can expand so much to accommodate their big lunch or dinner - isn't that amazing or what?).

So, when my husband told me that he's taking me to the Melbourne Zoo for a day, my spirits soared! This wonderful man really know how to welcome me. So the next day, we woke up bright and early and by 8 am we were already at the main entrance and so were many others! Hmmm, I was expecting a quiet day at the zoo as it was a working day but I guess I was asking for too much. The zoo was a public place and later that day we found out that it was indeed a school holiday thus the influx of visitors bringing their little children out for visits to the local attractions.

Once we have gotten the tickets, our 1st destination was to the toilet. In order to prepare for the long walks, we have to unload some of the excess weight that we were carrying around and what better way than visiting the toilets - if you get what I mean. Hey, I'm trying my best not to be crude here ok. Once relieved, we headed to the 1st exhibit, the big cats. Just outside the entrance there was this bush bursting with purple flowers that caught my eye.

The colour of the flower was so vibrant I could not resist taking a photo with the flowers surrounding me. Well, in the photo the flowers turned up beautiful but the human looked horrible as the signs of ageing were everywhere on my face. Those dreadful wrinkles are slowly but surely making themselves at home on my face! Oh well....

The big cats really took me by surprise.

The snow leopard were very beautiful, white snow and light beige coat with black and grey circular/oval markings really made them look very regal. No wonder they are widely hunted for their coat. Beauty has it's price it seems.

The rest of the big cats really do not stand a chance to steal the beauty of the snow leopard.

No doubt they looked big, strong and healthy but when it comes to beauty, sadly none came close.

The Melbourne Zoo fed their big cats raw chicken and we were lucky to be there to witness it 1st hand.

A simple chat with the zoo volunteers revealed that they only fed the animals slaughtered chicken as to spare the public from the gory details of a chicken being hunted down and sometimes played with before they are actually eaten.

Nevertheless, these animals still possess some hunting skill which comes naturally with their wild instincts and will use them without hesitation if the habitat permits it.

After the big cats, we came upon the seal enclosure which smelt a little bit fishy but still appealed to all the visitors. It was actually constructed like a big giant concrete pond with a man made concrete island shaded by a canopy in the middle of it. A part of the pond wall was made by a clear, thick tempered glass that enables the visitors to look at the pond as though they were looking at a giant aquarium.

The seals were swimming gracefully without a care and they reminded me of my cousin in law, Justin.

You see, Justin is a guy who is so at ease in the water. He embraces the sun and the sea, swimming endlessly without a care of getting sunburn or getting 10 shades darker. He just loves to swim and playing in the water. There was an occasion where he braved the icy water of Gunung Ledang, swimming in the waterfall and looking paler and shrivelling by the second because it was so cold, another occasion he brave the strong current of the Rejang River to swim across to the other side of the river bank and back (I was holding my breath when he did this!) and I heard that he even swam at the Bondi beach in the middle of winter just to have a taste of the Australian waters! Hmmmm.

OK, enough of Justin, let's get back to the seals. The seals somehow knew that we, the visitors wanted to have something spectacular to remember them by, so they, the four of them actually swam the whole distance of the pool turning and turning doing somersaults and loops while playing with the big rubber ball in the pool. What a fantastic display of water agility.

The beauty about the Melbourne Zoo was further enhanced by the many ponds and mini gardens with sitting benches sheltered from the sun by the canopy of giant tress blossoming with colorful flowers.

It was a perfect setting for families to spread out their picnic baskets on the carpet grass while the elderly opted for the shaded benches to have their rest.

The ducks and swans paddled gracefully in search of food in between the pond weeds and once in a while were given treats in the form of leftover bread from the visitors.

Turtles and Japanase Carps thrived as the setting was truly ideally constructed for their habitat. Pelicans perched on dead branches, cleaning themselves while drying their feathers under the sun.

They were all free roaming and truly enjoyed their freedom to be among the visitors.

After a short rest, we continued with our exploration and made our way to the primate enclosure.

Here I realised that the zoo management truly went all the way to provide a great living environment as close as they could to the natural habitat.

The enclosures were full of ropes and sticks that they could swing from, stone piles for them to sunbathe on, big trees to offer shade from the blasting sun when it got too hot as well as heated sleeping compartments for the animals to be comfortable during the cold winter nights.

The primates seem to be very happy with their living arrangement and it showed well in their daily behaviour. Daily check ups were conducted to establish their health progress and they truly seem happy.

No sad faces at all. I took a photo with a peacefully sleeping gorilla, was mesmerised by the Lion Tail Macaques and captivated by the Ebony Leaf Monkeys.

The Orang Utans' enclosure were full with instruction written in both English and Bahasa Melayu as to acknowledge their Asian origins.

A family of Orang Utans that compromise of a father figure, a mother and a small baby entertained us with their agility to swing from one pole to another.

They acted so human like - both the father and mother were teaching their child how to choose a good fruit by smelling then the father encouraged the child to follow him to a small creek that ran through the enclosure for a drink.

It was very sad to know that they were the many among most hunted animals in the wild.

Mother Orang Utans were mostly shot dead so that poachers could get their hands on the babies to be sold to the black markets. Seems that many rich families put a high prize on live baby Orang Utans to be kept as pets. What a shame.

We made our way to the Kangaroo enclosure where we found them having a nap under a large tree. We were allowed to walk through their enclosure as they were tame and do not pose any threat to the visitors.

The Kangaroos and Wallabies live in harmony, hopping freely from one grassy patch to another then onto a dry patch to lie down on the muddy soil. I guess it was time for their daily mud facials..

The Tree Kangaroos on the other hand sported a very bright orange/reddish coat and they were enclosed on an island that was impossible to breach. They moved slowly and used their tail to grasp onto the tree trunks to assist them in climbing.

A rustling in the grass revealed that there was another animal sharing that enclosure but we could not identify it. The Tree Kangaroos were the prettiest among the different Kangaroos on display as their vibrant coat shined remarkably under the bright sun.

Next came the Meerkats and what a busy lot they were.

Always moving daintily on their tiny feet, the Meerkats colony truly thrived living on an island designed with carefully hidden burrows made of plastic pipes buried underneath a pile of earth and wood chips with a little bit of bushes here and there.

They were friendly and two of them actually gave us an amazing pose, almost smiling when they looked at the camera.

Their coat blended well with their natural habitat thus gave them an advantage, able to run and hide underground or camouflage themselves by hiding between the dead branches.

From the Meerkats we moved on to the Pygmy Hippo enclosure that looked like a mini jungle setting with lush trees and a small creek with crystal clear running water.

The only thing that seemed out of place was the old tyre placed somewhere near the pond. Our exhibit was unfortunately sleeping so we could not get a great shot. What a pity.

It seemed that most of the animals just had their 1st meal of the day. The Wombats were also sleeping off after a heavy meal just like the Hippo earlier.

They looked to peaceful sheltered inside their burrow and did not made a sound or moved even though the visitors were making so much noise.

We left the sleeping beauties to enjoy their slumber and made our way to the "Great Aviary".

The Great Aviary was a huge enclosure that housed so many variety of birds big and small. It was probably about 5 metres wide and 100 metres long and 30 metres high.

Trees of different height grew abundance and the bushes thrived lushly on the ground. Birds of different colours busy flying and feeding on the numerous types of fruits and flowers that grew in the aviary. The aviary itself, made of steel structures and thick wire netting provided complete security to the birds living in it.

There were so many types of nests built among the tree branches and on and off, you can see either the father or the mother flew back to the nest to feed their young. The small creek that ran across the whole length of the aviary ended it's run in a small pond where most of the birds flew over for a drink. The whole aviary was made secure by the presence of double steel doors that was able to prevent any of the birds from flying out from it whenever a visitor steps in or out.

Visitors actually walked on steel and wooden planks through out the aviary. The 1st section housed the birds from drier areas and as we moved along the pathway, the landscape changed to a picture an exhibit of a tropical forest with lots of colorful birds perched prettily on the tree branches. Once in a while when a large bird took flight, we could feel the fluttering vibrations and it made us feel as though we were really waking through a lush jungle - truly amazing!. Unfortunately there were visitors who do not care about the consequences of throwing rubbish onto the floor of the aviary as we saw a few empty packets of chips as well as a few empty bottles scattered on the ground. I really could not understand these people. There were rubbish bins positioned along the pathway so why can't they throw their rubbish in them? Sad isn't it?

We made our way to the Elephants enclosure and it was huge!

The elephants had their own huge swimming pool beside a large area to roam. No wonder these animals were never looking sad as their enclosure provided them with endless activities as well as toys for them to play with.

Two of the elephants were from Malaysia, my birth country and they were called Mek Kapah and Bong Su.

Mek Kapah apparently is the leader of the whole herd and she was mentioned as a very loving leader who always look after the rest especially the young ones.

The Giraffe, the Zebra and the Cassowary shared a large enclosure and when I say large, I really meant it. The whole area can actually housed a bungalow with a swimming pool and a large garden. Look at the picture and you'll know what I mean!

The last exhibit that we visited was the Reptile Land. Here the reptiles of different species were showcased in aquariums decorated in the natural habitat of each species. It was truly amazing as there were so many types of snakes, geckos as well as others like turtles and iguanas.

A few of the snakes that we saw were the Eastern Diamond Rattlesnake, the Black Headed Phyton, the Western Hognose Snake, the Black cobra, the Emerald Tree Boa, the Honduras Milk Snake, the Green Tree Phyton and others of different colors that I could not recall. There were also the Dwarft Bended Dragon, the Double Crystal Bassilisk, the Fijian Iguana, Salamenders and a Trilled Lizard. The exhibit that caught my attention was the one that housed the water snakes. It was decorated like a full aquarium with lots of underwater vegetation, dead wood, sandy bottom and fishes of many colors. I actually thought that it was a normal aquarium but when I looked carefully, I could see the Tile Snake gliding swiftly on the surface of the tank and coiled itself around a piece of dead wood. Very clever and fascinating to watch.

It was late when we left the zoo but not without getting a few key chains and post cards as souvenirs as the rest were too expensive for me to buy....

Nevertheless, the pictures taken will always remind me of my day at the Melbourne Zoo. I also hope that Ying and her father will find them useful when constructing their exhibits and enclosures in Tawau. For those who are planning to visit Melbourne, do drop by at the Melbourne Zoo. And if you have time to spare, do pay a visit to the Heallesville Santuary (featuring Australian wildlife in an open environment) as well as the Werribee Park (featuring African open range zoo experience) all within driving distance from the city. Have fun with the animals ok, because we certainly did!

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