16 Dec Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary
JIRRAHLINGA KOALA and WILDLIFE SANCTUARY – Taits Road, BARWON HEADS
From little things, big things grow… Paul Kelly
Jirrahlinga is an Aboriginal word that means ‘seek a home for a kangaroo’. This wildlife sanctuary is not as well publiscised as it should be. Like many ‘round these parts, I discovered this little haven for injured, lost and lonely furry, feathered and scaly natives by happenstance, too. The day of my visit, I met a man who said he had lived in the area for 30 years, but had never thought to pay Jirrahlinga a call.
Jirrahlinga Wildlife Sanctuary in Barwon Heads was set up initially as a shelter for injured wildlife – animals who had survived bushfires, or who had met with misadventure on country roads.
You’ll see kangaroos and wallabies, wombats aplenty, dingos, reptiles and birds in their natural habitat sanctuary setting. Many of the cockatoos and parrots are surrender pets who have outlived their owners. It’s not uncommon for these fun-loving, cheeky birds to live for up to 80 years, and beyond. And during their lifespan many have picked up some interesting and surprising vernacular. Don’t be surprised if you are greeted with pleas of, “Give us kiss” and self-affirming outbursts of, “Hello. I’ m a pretty boy.” Many of these birds are thrilled to interact with humans, and will dance, show off, and willingly pose for selfies.
Koala feeding time is midday. Be sure to coordinate your visit to coincide with this hands-on koala lunchtime, meet-and-greet, and a fascinating information session enthusiastically delivered by the ranger. Little – and big — ones will be encouraged to pat the koalas – but not on the head. Apparently, the mother koalas discipline their babies this way. If humans try this on, baby koalas may become upset and ashamed, as they think they are being chastised, or are in trouble.
The rangers at Jirrahlinga are ever eager to divulge a plethora of information, facts and interesting snippets about all creatures great and small in their care. They’ll bring out most any little tenant for you to see up close and personal. You just have to ask. The animal-human interaction here is not to be missed. This is a rare opportunity to socialise with some of Australia’ s national treasures, and many endangered species. There are a rare few, but not too many places Down Under, that permit such hands-on participation.
Ranger Derrick was the main man in charge on the day of our visit. He’s a walking talking encyclopaedia of all things marsupial, feathered and scaled, so listen up. A justly deserved bragging rite here is that many of the wombats have been bred and born in captivity, which is extremely rare. And here’s betting you didn’t know that you’re in the ‘ hood of television wombat royalty, to boot? Three of Jirrahlinga’ s little wombat pack had starring roles alternating as the much-loved Fatso in the multi-Logie winning series A Country Practice. Ask to see little Matilda.
Jirrahlinga Sanctuary is big on dingo conservation, too. And you’ll discover that the dingos here actually wag their tails.
Inquire about Jirrahlinga’s Little Rangers School Holiday Programs. Children can spend a half or full day assisting the rangers care for the animals, and learning about wildlife conservation and endangered animal welfare in the process. There’s a little tea and coffee house that serves cakes, biscuits and tit-bits – and a gift and souvenir shop. The proceeds of the purchase of soft toys assists in the running of the place, and the upkeep of the tenants.
You may like to consider adopting or sponsoring one of the animals here, as Jirrahlinga receives no government funding, and relies solely on visitors and benefactors for the running and upkeep of this beautiful little animal Utopia.
The team here running the show is welcoming, enthusiastic and caring about anything and everything on the wildlife warrior front, and will do all that is humanly possible to make sure your visit is a memorable one.
A birthday party here is guaranteed to bring out the Skippy in everyone.
And this is straight from the koala’s mouth…
“Why not give the kids a Dinkum Aussie Birthday Party at Jirrahlinga? We can arrange to cater for your party. Or if you wish to cater yourself, we can arrange the facilities.”
Oh, and don’t forget the Caramello Koalas!
Contact Jirrahlinga on (03) 5254 2484