January 2005

Basic Instinct

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Weekender Magazine, January 2005


News Source: Weekender Magazine, page 12-13, Thursday 27th January, 2005
By: David Morris

Among stories of survival from the Asian tsunami, comes the message that the animal kingdom was far more prepared for the disaster than we were. Steve Irwin believes we can learn from this, writes David Morris. Reports out of Asia following the tsunami indicate that vast hordes of animals sensed what was about to happen and headed for the hills and safety.

What within their psyche alerted them to the danger? This sixth-sense phenomenon is worth investigating, or so the Sunshine Coast’s world renowned animal expert, Steve Irwin indicated during a media exercise at Australia Zoo.

The occasion was to introduce the Zoo’s latest additions – two wonderfully cute female cheetah cubs. They join two male cheetahs as Steve and Terri Irwin develop a breeding program to aid the survival of their kind.

Steve points out that cheetahs once roamed parts of Asia but are now confined to Africa, pushed to the brink of extinction by man.

How ironic when we could learn from them to heed nature’s warning signs to aid our own survival.

Steve’s eyes moisten as he shares that he lost friends in the Indonesian centre of Aceh hit hardest by the tsunami.

However he confirms that the animals sensed early what was coming. “The elephants normally did everything asked of them, but out of the blue they broke their chains and had the sense to bolt,” Steve says. “If only we could learn what they sensed.”

A person worth asking is the woman who reportedly escaped the tsunami because she noticed the sea sounded different from normal. One thing is certain, the crocodile Hunter is closer to learning the secrets than most.

His message, beginning with crocs, has always been that we should understand animal habits, and that we can co-exist with the more threatening creatures.

Cheetahs join tigers at the Zoo as part of Steve and Terri’s vision to breed animals whose numbers are dwindling.

Coming from cougar country in Oregon, Terri confides that she is a big cat fan. “Steve is now discovering that there are ‘real’ animals,” she quips.

Steve winds his way around the enclosure playing with cheeky 12-week-old cubs Cleo and Sheba in an exercise of unity that belies that man is the biggest threat to their species’ extinction. “Australia will have the greatest conservation cats on earth,” Steve says. “These little girls are just a bunch of fun. They’ve been named after (African queens) Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheeba, thanks to our daughter Bindi.”

“The aim is to breed cheetahs and release them back into the wild.”

Down the track, as with Australia Zoo’s tigers, people will pay to go on walks with the cheetahs and their minders. All monies will be channeled back into the Zoo’s endangered species program.

Tsunami relief update:

  • Steve and Terri Irwin are arranging to send truck and trailer of aid. Terri will personally supervise its delivery.
  • A Tsunami Appeal Raffle is being held by the Apex Club of Maroochydore and Sunshine Homemaker Centre, 100 Maroochydore Rd, Maroocydore. Centre traders have donated more than $13,500 in prizes. Tickets cost $3 each or two for $5 and all monies will be donated to Red Cross and UNICEF. The draw will take place at the centre at 2pm pm Saturday, February 12. Entertainment and a barbecue from 11am.
  • Appeal donations can be made through ANZ, National Australia or Commonwealth Banks or phone Australia Red Cross 1800 811 700; CARE Australia 1800 020 046; Oxfam 1800 034 034; or World Vision 13 32 40.