Visitors to New South Wales can admire but not hold koalas, so you’ll need to journey north to Queensland to discover what it feels like to cuddle one of the cutest animals on the planet.
Although this is one of the symbols of Australia, koalas only inhabit the east of the country, and in many places, encroachment of humans has put their population under severe threat. The best place to see them is in a sanctuary—but since New South Wales banned cuddling them, your best bet is to visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, near Brisbane. Here the marsupials sit in trees for most of the time, chomping on eucalyptus leaves.
Their dozy expression and seemingly endless capacity for sleep is not because they are drunk, it’s just that eucalyptus is a very poor nutritional source, so they conserve their energy by snoozing for up to 19 hours a day At Lone Pine, the koalas are only allowed to be cuddled for 30 minutes a day with one in four days off to ensure they get enough time to eat and sleep, but with 130 of them “on the staff,” there are still plenty of photo and film opportunities for visitors. Other animal interactions include kangaroo and wallaby feeding, and dingo patting.
Meet a giant panda It has become an emblem of the conservation movement, and an irresistible draw for zoo goers. but the giant panda is an elusive bear and your best chance of seeing it in the wild is in Qinling Mountain range.
With its trademark black patches and roly-poly physique, the panda is a star of the animal kingdom. Regaled with tales about its unwillingness to procreate, and images of it peacefully munching on bamboo behind zoo bars, it’s easy to imagine this as a perpetual victim of progress. In fact, conservation progress is being made by the Chinese government The Qinling Mountain range in central China’s Shaanxi Province is home to one of the largest populations of panda, and new reserves and wildlife “corridors” are helping to sustain the habitat of this reclusive bear, along with other rare animals such as the red panda and golden monkey.
Organized tours allow you to explore this habitat in the company of expert guides. It is one of 33 reserves established in China to sustain the panda A ban on logging in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces is also designed to protect its forest habitat A breeding program at Wolong Nature Reserve, Sichuan, aims to return more pandas to the wild, and you can also visit this reserve—part of which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Since the panda is a shy beast, it is notoriously difficult to accurately estimate the numbers remaining in the wild, but most figures put the population at around 1,600. However DNA analysis at one reserve has suggested there could be almost double that number—something that should please panda-lovers everywhere.
Watch a hummingbird feed This iridescent bird may look delicate, but it is capable of flying vast distances on its annual migration. The best way to see one in action is to visit a North American garden.
Hummingbirds are one of the tiniest showstoppers on the planet. Weighing in at O. toz-0.7oz (anything from two to 20 grams), these amazing birds feed by hovering over a nectar source, their wings flapping so fast they appear as a blur. This hyper-activity can mean a heart rate of more than 1.200 beats a minute. so they require vast quantities of energy. This is why it is so common to see them sucking sugary nectar up through their long beaks.
There are over 300 species found throughout the Americas, from Alaska to southern Argentina, as well as the Caribbean. The most common variety in North America is the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, which makes the long trek to Central or South America for the winter. These was a persistent myth that they rode piggyback on larger birds, but now it is recognized that these tiny birds are prodigious flyers—even crossing the Gulf of Mexico without a rest stop. For North Americans, the hanging of the birdfeeders is a spring ritual. The feeders (usually red or orange to attract the birds) are filled with a sugar-and-water solution and, provided the location is right, the reward is to get up close to a hummingbird and watch it teed on a daily basis. Sometimes the same bird will return to its favorite feeder year after year.