The Maitland Mercury

Make a platypus your playmate, wake up with giraffes or set out on safari these holidays

Platypus Rescue HQ is the perfect place to see how these elusive critters spend their time. Picture supplied
Platypus Rescue HQ is the perfect place to see how these elusive critters spend their time. Picture supplied

This is branded content for Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo might just be the ticket to keep the kids entertained these school holidays.

Parents get a look in too as people of every age love animals, and there is so much to see and do at the zoo this winter.

For example, with a beaver like tail, sleek water proof fur, duck-bill that looks glued on and webbed feet, is there anything more fascinating than a platypus?

Now there is an easy way to get up close and personal with these shy creatures that doesn't involve rummaging around a muddy creek.

Platypus Rescue HQ

The zoo's Platypus Rescue HQ is arguably the best place in the country to appreciate the uniqueness of this elusive Australian.

Opened in February 2024, the purpose built platypus rescue facility is the largest in the world. It can house up to 65 rescued animals at any time as well having a dedicated research centre.

"At this new facility, guests can take a peek at conservation in action through large viewing windows into the refuge," director Steve Hinks said.

Meet Mack!

Playful Mackenzie platypus has already made an impact on visitors to the zoo. Picture supplied
Playful Mackenzie platypus has already made an impact on visitors to the zoo. Picture supplied

Already, there is no doubt about who the star of the new Platypus Rescue HQ is.

"Resident male platypus, Mackenzie, has well and truly settled into his new habitat after moving from Taronga Zoo Sydney," Steve said.

"The 23-year-old male has explored every nook and cranny of his new home, much to the delight of our guests who have observed him busily foraging for yabbies and mealworms."

With many things threatening the very survival of this extraordinary monotreme, Platypus Rescue HQ is a timely addition to the zoo and a means for visitors to learn more about this cryptic, elusive species.

Fun fact, they glow under a biofluorescence UV light - I did not know that!

Watch the medical team in action treating all creatures great and small. Picture supplied
Watch the medical team in action treating all creatures great and small. Picture supplied

Opposite Platypus Rescue HQ is the Wildlife Hospital.

Opened in December 2022, it is dedicated to animal health care and conservation. Come along and see the zoo's vets and nurses provide treatment and care to zoo animals and over 500 wildlife cases each year.

"Prior to the hospital development, all of this work happened behind the scenes," Steve said.

"Now guests can sit and watch the team in action treating all creatures great and small, from a tiny turtle or lizard through to a lion."

Baby Rhinos - get excited

The Southern Black Rhino conservation breeding program at Dubbo is set to welcome the pitter patter of little hooves with two new baby rhinos due, one in July to Bakhita and the second in August to Mesi.

It is the first time the program, the largest of its kind outside of mainland Africa, has had two calves due in such close succession so there is much anticipation around the births.

Keeper Hayley Brooks said the milestone was an exciting one for Dubbo's Black Rhino program.

Black Rhino Bakhita and Keeper Hayley Brooks enjoy a moment at dinner time. Picture supplied
Black Rhino Bakhita and Keeper Hayley Brooks enjoy a moment at dinner time. Picture supplied

"Our program acts as an insurance population for this critically endangered species," Hayley said.

"We're the only place in all of Australasia that is breeding Black Rhinos, so every successful birth is crucial."

Congratulations is definitely in order for a pregnancy that lasts between 14-16 months so stop by and give the rhinos your best.

The mums and bubs will spend time behind the scenes bonding for the first few months, so call back later in the year to see who arrived.

Daily winter keeper activities

During winter there are 12 keeper activities that visitors can be a part of around the 5.5km zoo circuit, all of which are included in the cost of entry.

Get onboard the Savannah Safari truck, which will bring you up close to giraffes, zebras and white rhinos and antelopes. Picture supplied
Get onboard the Savannah Safari truck, which will bring you up close to giraffes, zebras and white rhinos and antelopes. Picture supplied

"Keeper activities are a great way for our guests to see the animals at feeding time and to hear from the keepers who look after them," Steve said.

Behind the scenes a more immersive experience awaits. Why not book an encounter with meerkats, hippos, tigers and elephants or get aboard the Savannah Safari tour to see giraffes, zebras and white rhinos.

The Lion Pride Lands Patrol lets guests venture into the lion's den for a close up look at the zoo's eight member pride including three adorable cubs, Bahati, Jabari and Zawadi.

Seeing these magnificent felines so close is an experience you will never forget.

There's plenty to see and do including, the always fun, pedal boat hire. Picture supplied
There's plenty to see and do including, the always fun, pedal boat hire. Picture supplied

Like a real African safari, the Lion Pride Lands Patrol uses a purpose-built patrol truck with an experienced guide at the helm.

Go all out for the ultimate holiday experience

Imagine waking up in the morning, walking out on the deck, and the first thing you see is a journey of giraffes (that's what a collective of this statuesque animal is called) at your deck. Sounds just like something out of Africa.

Or contemplate enjoying your morning coffee as rhinos, zebras and antelope mingle just metres away.

Zoofari Lodge is an incomparable adventure that your whole family can share.

Visitors stay in unique canvas lodges with access to licensed restaurant, bar, lounge and a saltwater swimming pool.

Enjoy a morning coffee with these beautiful, statuesque creatures. Picture supplied
Enjoy a morning coffee with these beautiful, statuesque creatures. Picture supplied

Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo was the first zoo in Australia to offer this level of immersion with an overnight stay on the grounds, an initiative many other zoos have since followed.

All up there are three unique overnight options, Zoofari Lodge being the ritziest, but you should also consider the Savannah Cabins which offer self contained accommodation, and the Billabong Camp that gives visitors an Aussie bush camping experience.

When you stay overnight at the zoo your tickets are valid for two consecutive days so you can take your time and even revisit your favourite attractions.

Get organised and book your tickets online

The NSW school holidays are set to start on July 8 and will run until July 19. The Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo holds adventure and fun for both big kids and little ones making it the perfect destination.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is open 8.30am to 4pm during NSW school holidays. For more information about planning a visit to Taronga Western Plains Zoo, or to purchase tickets online, visit www.taronga.org.au/dubbo-zoo.