Zoo Lovers' Day on 8 April is a chance to appreciate the Perth zoos, wildlife parks and animal encounters we have around us.
Did you know that Vienna is home to the world's oldest existing zoo, opened to the public in 1765? Since then, zoos have evolved beyond recognition.
As humans have come to understand the problems caused by placing animals in enclosures, all the best zoos now provide more spacious habitats that mimic a species' natural environment as closely as possible.
Many of them, including Perth Zoo and Peel Zoo, focus on preserving endangered species while informing the public about the plight of animals around the world.
Here are six of the best Perth zoos, wildlife parks and animal experiences to celebrate on Zoo Lovers' Day and over the Easter holidays.
Starting with the main attraction, Perth Zoo is home to a myriad of animals from Australia, Asia, Africa and South America. Their interactive map is easy to follow, walking you through rainforest, bushland, wetland and savannah environments with lots of information about the animals, and places to stop for a rest or picnic.
Perth Zoo animals are too numerous to list, but amongst the most delightful are the cute meerkats, playful lemurs, giant Galapagos tortoises, fairy penguins, and orang utans - the wise old men of the forest who seem to know exactly what you're thinking.
The wellbeing of the animals at Perth Zoo is top priority. Not only do they live in areas that resemble their natural habitats, but keepers ensure they receive the right amount of stimulation and opportunities to socialise.
As a visitor, you are contributing to important conservation programs. Thousands of Perth Zoo animals are bred each year to be released into the wild to boost threatened populations. Visitor donations go directly to projects that save and protect wild animals around the world by combating poaching, rescuing illegally trafficked animals like orang utans and sun bears, and conserving the habitats of endangered creatures.
Tickets to Perth Zoo are $15.50 for children aged 4-15 (under 4s get in free), $25.00 seniors, $32.00 adults, and $83.10 for two adults and two children. Book tickets at the Perth Zoo website to save time when you arrive. Perth Zoo opening hours are 9.00am to 5.00pm every day of the year.
Perth's other zoo doubles as a wildlife sanctuary, offering animal interaction with the support of volunteers. Peel Zoo is privately funded, with a mission to give every visitor a memorable experience, whether that means cuddling a python, walking a dingo or feeding a squirrel glider.
Expect to see a wide range of birdlife, native animals and the troubled Tasmanian devil. The Peel Zoo Foundation manages a fundraising campaign called Devils Need Angels to help save these fascinating creatures from the devastation of Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease. Learn more about their plight and the captive breeding program.
Enthusiastic 8-16 year olds can find out a whole lot more by enrolling to be a Junior Zookeeper 4 a Day. They will learn about the life of a zookeeper, how to feed and handle animals, and what's involved in captive breeding. Go to the Peel Zoo website for more information.
Peel Zoo offers fascinating insights and quite a different experience from Perth Zoo. Opening hours are 9.00am to 5.00pm on weekends and public holidays, 10.00am to 4.00pm on weekdays. Ticket prices start at $12.00 for 3-15 year olds, $17.70 seniors, $23.00 adults, and $60.00 for two adults and two children.
Caversham Wildlife Park
Caversham Wildlife Park is an open plan zoo in Perth's popular Whiteman Park, creating a fabulous full day out for families.
Every day, visitors have the chance to hand-feed kangaroos, watch sheep shearing or mustering, milk a cow, cuddle a wombat, see the fairy penguins feeding, and grab a few selfies with the koalas.
The family owned venture donates to a wide range of wildlife conservation programs, and assists in the preservation of endangered species by housing insurance populations of fairy penguins and disease-free Tasmanian devils.
Caversham Wildlife Park is another complementary experience to Perth Zoo, especially for families and those wanting to get up close to iconic Australian marsupials.
Caversham Wildlife Park is open 9.00am to 5.30pm every day except Christmas Day (last entry 4.30pm). Ticket prices are $13.00 for 3-14 year olds, $22.00 seniors, $29.00 adults.
Why should animals of the land and air have all the fun? The Aquarium of Western Australia at Hillarys Boat Harbour is Perth's marine zoo! There aren't many places where you can sleep over with sharks or snorkel with a mermaid. AQWA gives you these and much more.
Trailing around AQWA is a virtual subsea adventure along the WA coast, from the Southern Ocean to the Far North, displaying the seemingly infinite array of marine creatures living there.
During the school holidays, look out for a three-hour program with lunch, called Marine Scientist for a Day. Kids will get to see behind the scenes, experience turtle and fish feeding, and get into a slime experiment. Book via the AQWA website. Also check this link for current talks, tours and feeding times.
AQWA is open every day except Christmas from 10.00am to 5.00pm. Ticket prices are $18.00 for 4-15 year olds (under 4s free), $22.00 seniors, $30.00 adults, and $79.00 for a family of four.
Armadale Reptile & Wildlife Centre
Armadale's animal rescue and rehabilitation centre doesn't turn any suffering creature away. If they can't help, they'll find someone who can.
Armadale Reptile & Wildlife Centre is home to more than 70 species, specialising in reptiles. As a rescue centre, rather than a zoo, this Perth gem houses a more limited collection of creatures than the larger zoos and parks. What's fascinating about it is the work done to rehabilitate and re-release injured and orphaned animals.
Visitors find out how to identify animals they might come across on their travels or close to home, learn more about them, and understand what to do if an animal needs help.
Armadale Reptile & Wildlife Centre is open 10.00am to 4.00pm every day during school holidays, except Christmas and New Year. Outside school holidays, the Centre is closed on Wednesdays. Admission is $8.00 for 3-15 year olds, $14.00 seniors, $20.00 adults and $50.00 for two adults and two children.
Wild Marine Encounters
If you're a zoo lover, Perth's marine encounters in the wild will be a thrill ride. A short trip south takes you to Rockingham, where you don't just get to see dolphins in the ocean - you can swim alongside them too.
This unforgettable experience is yours with Rockingham Wild Encounters, who are so confident you'll meet dolphins on your first cruise that they offer a second trip free if you don't. The success rate is 99%, so this is a safe bet.
Wild Encounters will also ferry you across to Penguin Island, inhabited by well over a thousand fairy penguins plus a cafe and discovery centre, where you can watch these adorable creatures being fed.
Alternatively join a Dolphin, Penguin & Sea Lion Adventure, cruising the calm waters of the marine park to spot dolphins, sea lions, pelicans, ospreys and cormorants, arriving on Penguin Island for feeding time.
Check this article for more Wildlife Encounters in Perth.