By Larry and Joan Dolinski
Continued from update #45
Upon return to Cairns we visited Tjapukai, the Aboriginal Cultural Center, and watched a dance presentation, a fire stick demonstration, and a film depicting the sad and woeful history of the Aborigines.
That evening found us at a slide presentation entitled "Introduction to the Great Barrier Reef", given by a man who was both a qualified marine biologist and a scuba diving instructor. We found it fascinating and will share a few of the facts we learned:
o The Great Barrier Reef is approximately the size of Great Britain and extends for 2300 km (1440 miles) along the northeast coast of Australia. It is not one reef but a network of about 2900 individual reefs.
o This reef system contains more animal life than anywhere else in the world. There are over 1500 species of fish.
o Coral is animal (microscopic animals adhere to rocks, then grow and divide). Coral feeds on plankton, which is plant.
o Coral needs three main things for growth - warm water - sunlight - low nutrients
o With respect to sex...most of the corals engage in it (i.e., fertilization by sperm) and a number of species of fish change their sex (don't know why!).
o There are serious threats to the Great Barrier Reef, namely - Fertilizers that run off banana plantations and sugar cane fields. - cyanide fishing - dynamite fishing
o Politicians are beginning to take note because of the economic impact of the tourist industry, and a system of strict protective regulations have been introduced.
On separate occasions we visited both the outer and inner reefs. The trip to the outer reef was aboard a large catamaran which tied up to a large James Bond type floating station. Between us we participated in swimming, an introductory scuba dive, snorkeling, rides on the semi-submersible and glass bottom boats, and we spent time in the underwater observatory. On both reef visits we pleasured in the sea life we saw; there were great and varied masses of coral of all sizes, a vast variety of colorful tropical fish, large sea turtles, giant clams, etc., etc. It is such an awesome and strange world down there on the Great Barrier Reef. It richly deserves its status as a World Heritage Site.
[Wild Animal Farm]
Before leaving Australia we made a visit to a wild animal farm. Again we interacted with kangaroos and had the best time feeding these wonderful friendly creatures. The high point of the visit, however, was our time with the koalas. We observed many sleeping in eucalyptus trees and even got to hold and take a photo with one (very soft and huggable). We are told that they live a fine line between life and death, obtaining all of their nourishment and hydration from gum (Eucalyptus) leaves. Eucalyptus actually has very little in the way of water or nourishment, hence the koalas are always at risk from starvation and/or dehydration.
While standing on a small bridge looking into the placid appearing water, we were gazing at a school of baby ducks (only days old). As they came swimming by one baby duck was suddenly attacked by a Barramundi fish. The poor little baby turned over, began to thrash and started to drown right before our eyes. Two of its little siblings tried to save the stricken duck, but failed to get its beak above the water's surface. We alerted the wild life handlers and one of them snagged the duck with a long pole, hauled it in and gave it "mouth to beak" resuscitation. Its little heart was still beating and there was optimism about the likelihood that the duck would survive.
Continued on Update #47
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