02x16 - Down Under: Taronga to Go

Episode transcripts for the TV show "Secrets of the Zoo". Aired: July 29, 2018 - present.
Nat Geo Wild is taking viewers inside the grounds and allowing them to experience what visitors can't: compelling, heartwarming stories, and behind-the-scenes moments and adventures.
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02x16 - Down Under: Taronga to Go

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Narrator: It's no secret

That taronga zoo
is committed to conservation.

Keeper: This is an area
that the bilbies been extinct

For a very long time now.

So for the zoos to be part

Of the re-introduction
of this species

Is just incredible.

Narrator: And it's
proud of its work,

With dedicated research
and breeding programs

That have already brought some
species back from the brink.

But there are
many more in jeopardy.

♪ ♪

And one of these
is a little-known bird

Native to
southeastern australia.

(chirping)

Michael: Regent honeyeaters
are absolutely

One of the prettiest
australian birds.

They're a small passerine,

Which means they're
a perching bird.

They're beautiful--
gold and black.

And they've got a patch of skin
just around their eye,

Which has little bubbles on it,

Which is one of the reasons
they used to be called

The warty faced bird.

Regent honeyeaters love to eat

The nectar out of
eucalypt blossoms.

They've got a little hooked beak

And they've got
a fairly long tongue,

Which they can stick
into the eucalypt flowers

So they can steal the nectar.

(bird singing)

Regent honeyeaters are
really struggling in the wild.

The numbers could be
as low as .

One of their biggest thr*at
is habitat loss.

It takes or years

For a eucalypt tree
to grow large enough

To be able to sustain
the right kind of flowers

For not only regent honeyeaters,

But for many of the nectivorous
species that we have.

(chirping)

Narrator:
Over the last years,

Taronga has been
fighting on the front line

To help save this
critically endangered bird.

They've already bred
more than birds

For release back into the wild,

And the aviary in sydney
could not fit another feather.

Luckily,
taronga's sister zoo in dubbo

Has plenty of room,

And it's ready to welcome

A collection of
breeding females from sydney.

But before the birds take off,

They've got an appointment
at the wildlife hospital.

Larry: What we're
about to do today

Is do what we call
pre-shipment examinations

On beautiful
regent honeyeaters.

Just look at the feet.

We'll do a physical examination
on each bird

While the keeper
is just holding the bird,

Make sure that
it's nice and healthy.

So basically checking, you know,

Eyes, mouth, feathers,
body condition, feet--

Just a quick physical exam.

Three out of five
body condition.

We're sending females only
to taronga western plains zoo,

And of course
they have the capacity

To lay three clutches
of eggs a year.

Um, around two or three chicks
maybe per clutch.

So if they all breed well,

There'll be quite
a significant contribution

To the numbers
in the breeding program.

And that will then allow us

To have more that we can
release back to the wild.

This little bird
looks excellent,

Great body condition.

Pristine in fact.

We'll just get
a body weight on it,

And then it's good to go.

Narrator: But before
they head to dubbo,

There's just one more test
they need to pass.

And for these
female honeyeaters,

It's by far the most important.

Michelle: So this will tell us

Possibly if there's
any differences

Between c*ptive and wild birds,

And we want to see
what we're doing right.

♪ ♪

Narrator: Taronga's institute
of science and learning

Is an education hub

With a focus
on endangered animals.

And getting to know them all

Is the first hurdle
for aspiring new keepers.

Suzie: We have
the biggest variety of animals

That we work with.

It's about different species,

Ranging from
a burrowing cockroach,

To our red roos and koala,

To our pygmy marmosets
and our cotton-top tamarins.

It's just the biggest variety.

Narrator: So with animals
calling the institute home,

Giving them all
the specialist care they need

Is a constant challenge
for the institute keepers.

Suzie: So I'm just going
to start some food prep.

Grey: Instead of being
a specialist keeper,

We're sort of a generalist
across the board

Of a many different taxa.

Narrator: And this zoo
within a zoo has a new recruit,

Keeper klay.

Klay: I started off
as a student,

And then I became a volunteer.

And I loved it,

And I never did it thinking,
"I must get a job here."

I just loved being here,

I loved being
around the animals,

I loved the keepers.

I loved everything
about it basically.

Narrator: But working
at the institute

Is a whole new
ballgame for klay.

Klay: So before I came
to the institute,

I pretty much worked
exclusively with birds,

And so coming here now

Means that I have
to learn to work

With a broad range of animals.

Suzie: Go meet our monkey boys.

Klay: Yeah. Okay, cool.

Narrator: And today,
showing her the ropes is suzie,

Who's starting off
orientation week

With something exotic.

Klay: It's lush in here.

Suzie: Bit of a jungle.

Our rain forest room
is very unique.

It's very dense,

And the animals
that we have in here

Aren't australian.

Buddies!

Our absolute
superstars of the room

Are our little monkeys.

They're a cotton-top tamarin.

Ready to meet some monkeys?

Klay: Yeah, absolutely.

Suzie: Come on, boys.

So they're pretty cute
little guys.

They're very sort of
unique looking

With those hairdos.

I call them
little albert einsteins.

You know, look at
that crazy hairdo.

They just look like
a little scientist,

Like they've sort of stuck
their finger in a socket.

Klay: Finger in a socket?
Exactly. That's what I thought.

How many are left
in the wild now?

Suzie: There's only about
, left in the wild

Because of habitat loss,
deforestation.

The illegal pet trade definitely
affects their numbers.

In the seventies,

They actually took
a lot of them from the wild

For medical research,

And the numbers just haven't
been able to build back up, so.

As a keeper,
it's really important

To get as much knowledge
about the animals,

You know,
the species as a whole,

But the individual
personalities.

And we need to know who's who,

Not just for when
we're doing a health check,

But we weigh these guys
all the time,

And you need to just know
who's on the scale

So you can match the weight
to the individual.

So it's a very
important skill to have

Pretty much from the get-go.

Klay: God, they look
so similar though.

So how do you, how do you tell
the difference between them?

What are the characteristics
you look for?

Suzie: Yeah,
so I guess we're looking at

Certain visual
and physical characteristics

And then behavioral as well.

Um, so generally the first one
that will come to you

Will be tricky,
the dominant male.

Now, tricky also has

Some really obvious white lines
coming down his forehead,

And he's got the shortest mane.

Klay: Yeah.

Suzie: You tend to sort of
look at individual features

Before you learn
the whole animal.

They might just have
a slightly different hairdo,

A little funky kick
to the side or something.

See how these guys

Have about an inch of brown
on their shoulders?

Klay: Yeah.

Suzie: If you look at jd,
he has white.

So pretty much, his mane
goes all the way around.

Now, petey is this one here,

And I call him perfect petey.

Klay: Okay.

Suzie: He's a very
pretty tamarin,

So that's why I call him
perfect petey.

Klay: Perfect petey.
Suzie: There you go.

Juan, who you're
feeding at the moment,

We call him worried juan.

And that's because
he's got the biggest brow line.

Klay: They look so similar,

But being able to id them is
going to be one of the things

That I really need
to be able to do,

But also one of the most
challenging things here,

Working with them.

Narrator:
Once she knows who's who,

Klay will need to
recognize the clues

To keeping them healthy.

Suzie: First thing you
sort of look at is their eyes,

Making sure their eyes
are clear, not watery.

Ears are clear,

There's no wounds
or scratches on their face.

You can see his tongue there
looks nice and healthy.

Klay: Yeah.
Suzie: And you can see his body.

You can see he looks like
he's in really good condition.

We do weigh them weekly

So we get
a really nice close look.

(chattering)
hear that vocal?

Klay: Oh, wow!

Suzie: different
vocalizations.

Klay: Is that them
basically saying,

"hurry up
and give me some more?"

Suzie: Pretty much, yeah. Ha ha!

Klay: It was awesome
to meet them up close,

Learn about how to id them.

I'm hoping that,
by the end of my rotation,

I'll be able to
identify all four.

We'll see how that goes.

Narrator:
But not all the animals

Klay needs to learn to handle

Are this cute and fluffy.

Klay: I feel excited
and just a little bit nervous.

Narrator: In ,

A devastating virus swept
through the bellinger river

On the new south wales
north coast,

Decimating the local
turtle population.

Taronga stepped up,

Took in the last remaining
bellinger river turtles

And built breeding t*nk

That have been instrumental
in saving the species.

Adam: In the wild,
there's no breeding,

So we have the last
remaining breedable adults

In this facility.

This is it.

This is the future
of this species.

Keeper: Look at him.
He's so happy.

Narrator:
Over the last three years,

Taronga has released turtles
back to the river system.

And this year they're on track
to break all records.

Adam: That's what I love to see.

It's the biggest pond
you've ever been in, mate.

So, first year, turtles,

Second year, turtles.

This year we're getting
to release turtles.

You know, that's pretty exciting

To know that
we are going to release

Three times more than
we've released previous.

Narrator: While releasing
animals to the wild

Is the end game...

...The long journey
for these turtles starts here.

Adam: This is our bellinger
river hatchling quarantine area.

So these little guys
are pretty much from some eggs

That we collected
up in our adult facility,

In those big green tubs
that we keep the adults in.

The girls lay in that nest box
in the middle of the pond,

And we'll take those eggs out,
bring them back down here,

And we hatch them
in our incubator.

And then once they've hatched,

We bring them in here
and set them up.

And this is their future
for the next year.

Narrator: And while these guys
look forward to a big future,

They sure do start out small.

Adam: So, in here
we have one of the babies.

That's the reason
why I wear the gloves

Is just so I don't
introduce any little bugs.

This little guy's
around seven months old.

Being in captivity
they do grow a lot faster

'cause we're able to give them
a high-quality food,

So they will grow a lot faster.

You know, an animal
at this age in the wild

Would be a lot smaller.

This one's doing really well.

You can see, you know,
his shell's nice and round,

And as they get older,
it will oval out.

It's very common
for them to be quite round

When they first come out.

Underneath
his belly is quite yellow,

Which is really nice.

His legs are quite formed.

They're really little, little,
tiny, little spindly legs,

And you can see his tail.

He looks well,
he moves good in the water.

And, you know, I think
he's doing really well.

There you go, buddy.

Narrator: Once they
mature a little more,

They'll move to the next t*nk,

Which will hopefully prepare
them for their homecoming.

Adam: We've set this one up as
a natural sort of river system,

Similar to where they
would be found in the wild,

Just to sort of see
how they act and how they grow

And how they respond to it.

Yeah, so we're using gravel

Similar to what's
found in the river,

The plants which are
found in the river,

To replicate
a small part of the river

Where they would
naturally occur.

And these six
are doing extremely well.

They're growing, eating,

Doing everything we would hope
for them to do, if not more.

I'm really proud

Of what we're achieving
in here, you know.

We're breeding
the future of this species

So it is something
to be proud of.

We put in a lot of work
and a lot of effort.

We all get to smile that
we're doing things right.

Narrator: While breeding
turtles is a major challenge,

Here at taronga's
western plains zoo,

The team has managed to breed

One of the trickiest
species in the world--

Not just once but three times.

Jordan: So, this is turbo,

And this is his dad.

♪ ♪

Narrator: Rookie
institute keeper klay

Is learning all it takes

To care for the animals
that call the institute home.

Klay: So, this one is jd?

Suzie: Yep.

Narrator: Yesterday she started
off with cute and cuddly.

Klay: They look feathery.
Suzie: Yeah!

Narrator: But today
keeper grey is introducing her

To some more
challenging residents.

Grey: Alright,
so we're going to start working

On some snake handling.

How do you feel about that?

Klay: Excited?
Grey: Yeah, okay.

So we've got quite a few
different snakes up here,

But I think we'll start
with the spotted pythons.

Klay: Snakes are going to be

Something
a bit different for me.

I do have to learn
the skill of handling them,

Um, making sure
they're comfortable,

And I need to get
comfortable, too,

'cause it is different for me,
it's new.

Yep.

Grey: So, every snake
has its own bag.

Klay: Mm-hmm.

Grey: Uh, for quarantine,

Each one has
their own individual one.

Now we're not actually
going to bag the snake,

Which we would do if we were
taking it somewhere.

Klay: Right.

Grey: But we still use it when
we're getting the snake out.

We use it to let them know
that we're coming

So that we don't startle them.

And there he is.
Klay: Mm-hmm.

Grey: And I'll just give him
a little touch with it,

Just very gently.

Again it just lets him know
that I'm coming

And that I'm going
to be picking him up.

And I want to make sure
that I support

As much of his body as possible.

Here we go.

Klay: So this is spot?

Grey: Yes, this is spotnik,

One of the spotted pythons.

Klay: And spot is an adult?

Grey: Yes, this is full size.

Klay: That's full size.
Grey: Yeah.

Klay: I think a lot of people

Have a really healthy caution
regarding snakes.

He's got beautiful coloring.

Grey: Yeah. And you can see,
being a constrictor,

He's quite strong.

Just like the larger pythons
or boa constrictors,

They wrap around their prey
to crush it.

Klay: Yeah, yeah.

Grey: We're much too large
for them to do that to.

They're non-venomous,

So they're completely safe,

And they're a great
snake to start with.

♪ ♪

You'll be fine.

Klay: Okay.

Grey: One of the most important
things for klay to learn

Is actually just being
comfortable handling the snakes.

So many people
are afraid of snakes,

And it's up to
the education team

Who work up here
at the institute with us

To be helping people
get over those fears.

Klay: Hi, spot.

Grey: It's like trying to handle
a slinky that's being activated.

You're constantly
having to move your hands

In order to keep up
with where they're going.

They can end up
going up your sleeves

Or in the neck of your shirt
or your jumper.

So those are all things
that you want to be aware of.

Obviously that's not going to be
an issue for spot right now

Because he's sitting
very comfortably,

But you just want to be aware of
where they're at, at all times.

So I'm going to
put him back now,

And then you're going
to get one out.

Narrator: Klay is going to have
her first snake experience

With winangay,
another spotted python.

Grey: How are you feeling about
handling your first snake?

Klay: Pretty good.

Um, I just want to make sure
that I do right by her

And happy to give it a go

And hopefully make friends.

(laughs)

Narrator: This morning,

critically endangered
regent honeyeaters

Are in the wildlife hospital.

Larry: These birds are destined
for taronga western plains zoo.

And prior to them going, we like
to give them a full check-up.

Looks great.

All of them
checked out perfectly.

Okay, good.

Narrator: While they're here,

It's an ideal opportunity
for some research.

Woman: Two to three.

Narrator: For example,

Zoo nutritionist michelle
and her team

Are collecting data
on feather colorations.

Michelle:
The reason that we do that

Is because we can change
some bird's feathers with diet.

And we feed them diets
full of carotenoids,

Different pigments

That will change the colors
of the bird's feathers.

And we play around with
different carotenoids

To see if it changes the blacks,
changes the yellows,

But we're not good enough at
distinguishing between color

With our own eyes.

We need a machine to do that,

And that's where
the spectrophotometer comes in.

So we're measuring the colors
of the bird's feathers

With a spectrometer.

Woman.: Yellow primary one.

Michelle: Two, three.

So we're getting three readings
per feather color.

We're trying to look
at the yellow and the black.

Woman: Black primary one.

Michelle:
Birds are tetrachromats,

So they see four colors,

And that includes
blue, red, and green,

But also uv.

As humans, we don't see uv.

So even though we see black
on a regent honeyeater chest,

Another regent honeyeater

Might see a psychedelic rainbow
of colors that we can't see.

Woman: Tail yellow one.

Michelle:
What we're looking to do

Is actually find out what those
colors are in the wild birds

So that when we're adding
pigments to diets

We are achieving the same color

For birds that we're trying
to breed as well.

Woman: Do you want
a number on that?

Narrator: Saving a species
takes a whole zoo.

Woman: Zero, zero, six, six.

Michelle: Zero, zero, six, six.

Narrator:
While michelle is responsible

For setting the diet,

Bird unit supervisor michael
is in charge of dishing it up.

Michael:
So this nectar supplement

Is replacing
all of the nutrients

That you'd find in wildflowers,

The box flowers--

Ironbark, yellow box, white box.

We would never be able to
collect that many flowers

Every single day.

So what we can do

Is we can provide them
with this artificial supplement.

Narrator:
And michelle's natural

Color-changing ingredients

Are all in the mix.

Michael: In the wild,

Naturally they would
get those carotenoids

From eating insects

And, you know, flies
or crickets or bugs or moths,

And those carotenoids

Is what enables us to be able
to give the regent honeyeaters

Such vibrant yellows
and such vibrant blacks.

We can provide that
inside this supplement,

And every single bird gets
the right dose for that day.

Narrator:
While the correct food

Is essential
for the honeyeaters to breed,

The other vital element
is a nest.

Harmony: This is a crucial part
of building their nest.

Narrator: And to help them
feel at home,

Keeper harmony
is staring down her fears.

Harmony: That's definitely
not my favorite job to do

Because I've had a fear of
spiders for quite a long time.

Oh!

But it's for
the regent honeyeaters,

So I'll happily go out
and collect spider webs

Anytime of the day.

Aah!

Narrator: A lot of people

Like the slower pace
of country life.

♪ ♪

Jordan: Hey, franklin.

Narrator: And out at taronga's
western plains zoo in dubbo,

The world's largest species
of tortoise, the galapagos,

Takes the whole
slower-pace thing

Down to the next level.

Jordan: So these guys are from
the galapagos islands,

So they're
an archipelago of islands

About kilometers
off ecuador, south america.

And they're just so unique.

They are up to kilos
for the males.

Franklin here
is about kilos,

So he's, he's very, very big.

Um, and here at dubbo
at taronga western plains zoo,

We have eight
galapagos tortoises,

So we actually have five adults.

So three males, two females,

And then we have
our three little hatchlings.

So mj here, he was
the first galapagos tortoise

That we've ever had hatched here

In the whole
australasian region.

So we were the first zoo
to breed them.

And since he was born,

We've actually had
two more hatchlings

Born six years ago.

So pennant and turbo, uh,
they weigh about a kilo each.

It's definitely
been a team effort

To breed such
a challenging species,

And I feel very, very grateful
to work with them every day.

Narrator: But astonishingly,
these youngest tortoises

Actually came from
the zoo's oldest resident.

Jordan: So, this is audrey.

She is about years old,

And she is the proud mum of
our three little hatchlings.

So pretty amazing--

years old and a mum.

Um, but everything about
galapagos tortoises

Is just incredibly slow.

They move very slowly.

They move at a top speed of
about . kilometers an hour.

(laughs)

Narrator: And here
lies the main reason

They are so difficult to breed

As they really, really
take their time doing anything.

Jordan: It takes them
about years

Before they'll
generally start breeding,

And it'll often be
even longer than that

Before they're in the prime
of their breeding age,

Before they feel comfortable

And before they actually
lay that first clutch.

Narrator:
The galapagos tortoise

Is a perfect example
of evolution,

Ideally illustrated

By how they've evolved
to be able to breed.

Jordan: Basically the tortoise
shell is made up of two parts,

The carapace,
which is the top part,

And then that connects
all the way through

To underneath the plastron,

Which is just
the bottom half of the shell.

And the plastron, so the under
part of the shell there,

For males is completely,
is quite concave,

And that's just
for mounting the females.

So they fit together
when they mate with the females,

They fit together
like two spoons.

So quite an amazing shell,
I think.

Narrator: Evolution
has also given them

Another strange quirk.

But this one
is more to do with cleanliness.

Jordan: So, this
very handsome fellow

Is actually our largest
galapagos tortoise

Here at the zoo.

This is albert.

He is years old,

And I'm going to get him to do
a very impressive behavior,

And he's already done it.

He knows the drill.

So you can just see

He was in a total,
um, sitting position there,

Just grazing on this hay.

And then as soon
as I approached him

And started to give him
a little bit of a tickle,

He's raised up into this
really impressive finch pose,

As we like to call it.

So you can see he's got his neck
stretched as far as he can,

His legs stretched up
as far as he can,

And he's staying
incredibly still.

Uh, so on the galapagos islands,

Um, they have
this symbiotic relationship

With finches
that live on the islands,

And basically what they'll do,

The finches will
fly up to the tortoise,

It'll elicit this behavior,

Um, and they'll
raise up like this,

And the finch can then feed

Off d*ad skin and bugs
from the tortoise.

Here at the zoo,
if there's anything we need

The vets to come down
and have a look at

They can come down,

We'll get the tortoises up like
this, in the exact same pose.

They're the best patients
in the zoo.

The vets love them

Because of how willing
they are to participate

In all their health checks.

And they're even able to
take blood from the tortoises

In this position.

We'll just give the tortoises
a really, really good scratch,

Which will distract them

And they'll be able
to take blood,

So, amazing patients
and amazing to work with.

Narrator:
And after spending time

With these gentle giants...

Jordan: There you go, wilbur.

Narrator: ...How could
their zen lifestyle

Not rub off on the keepers?

Jordan:
It is an awesome experience

Being a galapagos
tortoise keeper.

You learn patience
very, very quickly.

Everything about them is slow.

Um, but you're just in awe
the whole time you're down here.

You can't believe that
a tortoise can be this big,

That they can have
so much personality.

It is such a nice way
to spend some of your day.

You can just come down here
and just chill out even,

You know, they're just
calming to be around

And they, um, yeah, they
remind me to take things slow.

Narrator: Keeper grey has just
shown trainee klay the ropes

On how to handle the
institute's creepier residents.

Klay: Alright.

Narrator: Now it's her turn.

Grey: How are you feeling about
handling your first snake?

Klay: Pretty good.

All right.

Grey: You'll be fine.

Klay: Okay.

So...

Do a touch with the bag.

Grey: You're good.

Klay: Okay.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

Grey: Good.

Klay: Hey, winangay.

Grey: How do you feel?

Klay: Um, yeah,
I felt like that was okay.

Did it go okay
from your perspective?

Grey: Yeah, it was good.
Klay: All right.

So we're going to take her
outside for a bit of sunning?

Grey: Sure, yeah. Let's do it.

Klay: Um, grey, is this okay?

She's kind of going down
my shoulder there.

Grey: Are you
comfortable with it?

It's okay for her to be there.

Klay: ...As long as
she looks comfortable.

Grey: Yeah.
She's just exploring.

Klay: She's okay?

Having a little explore
over my shoulder.

Grey: It can get awkward

If too much of them
disappears over your back.

Klay: Yeah.

Grey: And so you
might want to bring her

Back around to the front

Before that happens.

But she's just checking out
everything right now,

Seeing what's happening
in the world.

Klay: There we go.

Grey: So one of my favorite
things about the spotted python

Is that when we're inside
in artificial lighting,

They're a brown snake
with spots.

But if we had better sunlight,

You would see that they actually
have a beautiful rainbow sheen

Over their entire body.

And it reminds me of
the aboriginal dreaming stories

Of the rainbow serpent.

Klay: Yeah, right.

Narrator: Even the most
experienced handler

Can be rattled by a snake,

But klay seems to be
taking it all in her stride.

Grey: She's looking
pretty comfortable.

Klay: I just heard her
hiss in my ear.

Grey: That just--
oh, it makes--I hate...

Klay: That was so cute.

Grey: I don't
like them in my face.

It gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Klay: That was
the cutest sound, though.

Grey: I'm not squeamish
about snakes.

I don't like them
when they're in my face.

I just, I can't deal with it.

Klay: I love them.

Grey: Well, you're doing
a great job.

Klay: Aw, thanks, grey.

Today was really fun.

Um, I'm stoked that I'm learning
to handle some of the snakes

That are up at the institute,
like the spotted pythons.

They are a smaller python,

So even though I feel relatively
confident now with them,

Hopefully I'll be
able to work up

To some of
the larger snakes soon.

Grey: Well done, klay.

You're a snake handler.

Narrator: With the snake
handling ticked off,

Klay's next stop
in her orientation week

Is to meet one of australia's
most mischievous macropods.

Klay: Come on. Babs!

Come on.

Larry: I'll just
look at the feet.

Narrator:
When it's breeding season

For the critically endangered
regent honeyeaters,

It takes a zoo-wide effort

To make sure they have
everything they need.

Michael: Because
the regent honeyeaters

Eat nectar in the wild,

We're going to replicate that

So that they get
the absolute best nutrition

That we can give them.

Narrator: From food
to accommodation,

Keepers go to great lengths
to set the right mood.

Harmony: This is a crucial part
of building their nest.

Narrator: In zoo aviaries,

Honeyeaters don't have access

To the full range
of building materials

They would normally
find in the wild.

So keepers
like harmony help out

With some honeyeater
home decorating.

Harmony: It's looking good.

Narrator: And there's
a real art to it.

Harmony:
So not every single spider

Produces the web
that we can use.

This one isn't a spider
that we would take web from

Because it's too strong.

So the transparent web is
not one that we would hunt for.

We're looking for the white,
fluffy, clean, sticky spider web

That mostly comes
from the house spider.

I got spider web in my eye.
(laughs)

Narrator: Each day
harmony hunts for webs,

And her search takes her
to every corner of the zoo.

Harmony: We can find
our spider webs anywhere,

From trees, near the bins,

Or even the dunny, which is
where we're headed right now.

Narrator: The toilet block

Is a treasure trove
of spider webs.

Harmony: So it
actually looks like

There's quite some good
spider web out the front here.

It's really good stuff.

The regent honeyeaters are
going to love this stuff.

It's super fresh, super sticky.

They're going to definitely want
to put this into their nest.

Oh, there's a spider.

Not a fan of that.

Let's leave that guy.

Um, there is that australian,
um, story of the redback spider

That lives in the dunnies,
that is definitely true.

I haven't seen any yet,

So hopefully
we won't come across any.

♪ ♪

Oh!

Sorry.

(laughing)

There's a spider up there.

Spiders, definitely
not a fan of them,

So I don't want to disturb them.

So I would rather
not freak them out

So I don't get freaked out.

Narrator: But for harmony
and the honeyeaters,

The web expedition
has been well worth the risk.

Harmony: We've done
quite well today.

This one's really good--

Quite white, fluffy, and sticky.

So they're going to use this

To stick the rest of
their nesting material in.

So they will wind this in

To stick the dry grass,
emu feathers, small twigs.

Spider web kind of
sticks that all together.

So this is definitely
a perfect example.

It's very sticky,
so they're going to love it.

Narrator: It's a big effort
for a little bird.

Kara: Hi, buddy.

Narrator: But here in
dubbo's breeding aviaries,

It's all about to pay off.

Kara: Hi, miss pink.

Where's your babies today?

Suzie: Come on, boys.

Klay: Very cool hairdo.

Narrator: Keeper klay's
sharp learning curve continues

During her training week

At taronga's institute
of science and learning.

Klay: There are so many
awesome and unique animals

That I've never
worked with before.

They have so many
different requirements,

And I'm learning new things
every single day.

It's a massive challenge,
but, um, so rewarding,

And I'm really loving
everything about it so far.

Suzie: All right.
So we're going to go see babs.

Klay: Yep.

Narrator: Suzie is making
the latest introduction.

Klay: Babs is just another
animal up here at the institute

That I'm getting to know

And, um, another species
I haven't worked with before,

But I'm excited
to learn more about.

Narrator:
Babs is a little-known

Australian marsupial
called a rufous bettong.

Suzie: Okay. Hey, babs.

You going to come out?

Think of sort of like
a small kangaroo

Crossed with a rat,

And actually their name,

Their common name,
other than the rufous bettong,

Is a kangaroo rat.

Good girl. Out you come.

Good girl.

Hello. Good morning.

Hey, babs.

Once she's up,
I'll usually give her a piece

Just to say thank you
for getting out of bed.

And then we'll move over
to her pet pack,

Tap on the back
and say "pet pack,"

And hopefully she will load
into the transport box,

And we'll take her
into the classroom.

Klay: Sounds good.
Suzie: Alright.

Narrator: Like all animals
at the institute,

Babs is an ambassador
for her species.

Suzie: Thank you.

Narrator: And is the star of
the interactive classroom,

Which of course she enters
via the stage door.

Suzie: And this is a very
cleverly designed release hatch.

Klay: Hmm.

Suzie: So you see that this,
this hole lines up here.

It's all magnetized,

So I've got the button,
which will basically open that.

Narrator: The woodlands room

Is a multi-species
interactive educational space

For school children.

Suzie: All right.
So I just heard the door open.

Can you see
where she's coming from?

Klay: Yep. She's just
coming out of the hollow now.

I can see her head.

Suzie: Babs has been trained
to come out of a release hollow,

Out onto the rock,
right in front of the kids.

It's very exciting
for the kids, you know?

They're sitting in here
and then all of a sudden,

Like, whoa, what is that?

Klay: Animal appears.

Suzie: Yeah.

So klay is learning
all about rufous bettongs,

She's learning about babs,

And she's learning about how to
get her to do this routine.

Klay: All right, come on.

Suzie: Babs knows it quite well.

Klay: Babs, come on.

Babs. Ha!

Suzie: But klay
then has to learn,

If babs gets a little bit
lost along the way,

How to guide her
in the right direction.

Klay: Babs.

Narrator: But today it seems
babs is a reluctant performer.

Klay: Come on.

Today's session
with babs and suzie

Was, um, a good one for me.

It was valuable because
I got to see how I manage babs

When she doesn't do exactly
what we're expecting of her

Or what we'd like of her,
um, in an ideal situation.

Babs!

Narrator: Luckily, food
is always a great motivator.

Suzie: Good girl.

Let her come all the way
to the end of the rock.

That's it.
Bring her all the way out.

Klay: Up we go, up the top.

Suzie: That's what
she's meant to do.

All right, so...

Klay: Corn?

Suzie: Corn. That way
the kids get to see

How dexterous they are
with their little hands.

So she'll pick up the corn,
have a good munch on it.

Klay: Yeah.

Suzie: Yeah, so it wasn't
the greatest session.

Um, but that's okay.

As a keeper
and working with animals,

You know,
it's about allowing them

To show their freedom of choice.

Then that's fine.

She wanted to go
and have an explore

Of all the enriching smells.

Klay: She's just not
feeling it today, is she?

Suzie: She's a little bit
out of sorts.

Narrator: While diva babs
calls it a day...

Klay: She done.
Suzie: She done.

Klay:
I think she's done. Yeah.

Narrator: ...Klay
doesn't have that luxury.

Still waiting patiently
to greet her

Is the institute's
largest python.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

Saving a species

Takes dedication and hard work
from many departments,

Working in harmony
across the zoo.

Keeper: Yeah,
babies are doing awesome.

They sleep a lot,
and they suckle a lot.

Narrator: And a great
example of this teamwork

Is helping these
female regent honeyeaters.

♪ ♪

The bird team are responsible

For breeding
these endangered animals.

Woman: One, two, three.

Narrator: The vet team combines

To ensure they're in
tip-top shape for breeding.

Larry: Great body condition.

Pristine, in fact.

Narrator: And countless people
from other teams

Go to great lengths to make
sure they are well-nourished.

Michael: Every single bird gets
the right dose for that day.

Narrator: And comfortable.

Harmony: This is very sticky
so they're going to love it.

Narrator: But the culmination
of all this work

Happens here at dubbo.

(whistles)

Kara: You ready for some food?

Narrator: The females

That arrived from sydney
three months ago

Have been welcomed
with open wings

By the eager males.

Kara: Let's have a look.

Narrator: And for this
endangered species,

The results have been
quite extraordinary.

Kara: Hello.
Welcome to the world.

So we got chicks.

Very exciting, hey?

Miss yellow's first baby.

Steve: Here at taronga
western plains zoo,

We're in the process
of welcoming a new clutch

Into that family,

And certainly look forward

To releasing them
back into the wild

In the not too distant future.

♪ ♪

Kara: Hi, miss pink.

Where's your babies today?

Narrator: While the birds
that came from sydney

Will stay here to breed...

Keeper: Where's dad?

Oh, there's dad.

Keeper: You are so big!

Narrator: ...It's these chicks

That will go on
to repopulate the wild.

Kara: It all contributes
to the larger part

Of this regent
honeyeater recovery program,

And that's exactly
why we're here.

As you can see,
he's raring to go.

Narrator: But before
they can be released,

They've got a lot to learn.

Kara: This little one is going
to go into the flocking aviary

With a lot of other juveniles

And learn how to be

A fully-fledged
adult regent honeyeater.

Get ready to join the flock.

There we go.

Oh, well done!

So this is
the future of the species.

We've seen this juvenile
hatch out from an egg,

Grow up in the nest
of its parents,

And now it's gone on that
next stage of its journey

Into a big aviary like this

To learn how to be
self-sufficient

And join the flock.

You can see the color difference
with the chicks and the parents.

The juveniles are
a bit more of a duller

Washed-out gray and yellow,

But soon enough they will have

Those beautiful bright colors,
just like dad.

We are really proud,
proud as punch.

This is why we're here--
to protect these birds,

To conserve them

And get them back into the wild
where they belong.

Narrator:
Taronga has helped release

More than
regent honeyeaters

Back to the wild.

That's a lot of feathers
in their cap,

And they're only
just getting started.

Steve: So it is
a long road to recovery

For a species such as
the regent honeyeater,

But for every egg that hatches,

Every hatchling
that comes out and fledges,

That is definitely
a sign of hope

That this species
has got a chance,

And we hope to be there

To help that chance
turn into reality.

Narrator: Learning
all the moving parts

Of taronga's institute

Is a daunting process.

Suzie: So do you know where
cotton-tops are found?

Klay: Colombia,
a small pocket in colombia.

Suzie: Oh, gosh,
you've done your research.

Narrator: And new keeper klay
has spent a huge week

Getting her head around it all.

Klay: Hey, winangay.

Grey: Being an institute keeper,

There really is a lot to learn

Because there's such
a wide variety of animals.

My background is birds,

And that's what
klay's is as well,

And we do have those up here,
which is great,

But there's invertebrates,
there's reptiles,

There's amphibians,
there's macropods.

There are so many
different things.

Klay: Yeah, I have to say,

Like, the variety of
animals and different species

Is just amazing up here.

Narrator:
Having successfully handled

A smaller spotted python...

Grey: So are you ready to do
your first big snake?

Klay: Yeah, I think so.

Narrator: ...Klay is graduating

To something
a bit more intimidating.

Klay: Hey, buddy.

Narrator: Meet ink,
the black-headed python.

Klay: Of course small snakes
are going to be different

To large snakes--

The way you hold them,
the way you manage them

While they're slithering
around on your hands.

Alright.

Hi.

Alright.

I guess he's
going to be a bit heavier

Than the last few I've handled.

Grey: Yeah, just a little bit.

Narrator:
Pythons aren't venomous,

But they have
a razor-sharp bite,

So klay must move slowly
to avoid irritating ink.

Klay: I was thinking

If I just kind of
open him up a little like that.

Grey: Okay.

Klay: Hook him over.

Grey: Just relax your arm
a little bit more,

Bring him down.

He's still a bit sleepy.

Klay: Yeah.
I think he was fast asleep.

Grey: Yeah.
Klay: Sorry, buddy.

Grey: So we've got him
around your neck

Just because he's a lot heavier,
he's a lot longer.

We want to make sure
more of his body is supported,

So we don't end up
inadvertently causing

Any injuries to his spine.

Klay: Alright. Sounds good.

Should we get some sun, ink?

Grey: Yeah, let's go take him
outside and get some sun.

Klay: Yeah.

Thank you muchly.

Grey: So how are you feeling?

Klay: Yeah, good.

I mean, it feels
different obviously.

Grey: Yeah.

Narrator: Ink may have
been sleepy earlier,

But now he's wide awake
and ready to wriggle,

Making holding him
a real challenge.

Klay: He is, like, very long.

Grey: He's very long.

Klay: It's hard,
like it feels...

Grey: And they're not typically
an arboreal snake,

Which he'll be a little bit
more comfortable on the ground.

Klay: It's like amazingly heavy,

So the arms are
starting to get fatigued.

I think he's ready to go down
and get some sun. (laughs)

Narrator: Klay has
clearly learned a lot

In her orientation week.

Grey: Klay has done
really well today,

And we'll do this with her
a few more times,

And then we'll sign her off
so she can do it all on her own.

Klay: Hi, thunder. I'm sorry.

Let me get you
something tastier.

Narrator: But there's
still a long road ahead

On her journey
to joining the elite team

Of institute keepers.

Klay: With such
a diversity in species

There is still so much to learn
about the individuals themselves

And about the species.

So I'm still asking
a lot of questions

And probably
annoying the other keepers

By asking so many
all of the time.

But, um, that's how you learn,
and these guys know so much,

So it's great to feed off them

And, um, yeah, I'm really
loving my time up here.

(koala grunting)

(koala grunting)
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