Australia's Unique Animals
Is a koala a bear? Do Tasmanian devils spin? Experts at Sydney's Taronga Zoo debunk wildlife myths.
A baby wombat at Sydney's Taronga Zoo
If you thought wombats had wings and slept upside down in caves, you need to plan a trip to Sydney, Australia, and spend a day at Taronga Zoo. This popular attraction, which sits on a cliff overlooking Sydney Harbor, is home to a wide array of animals. They have a menagerie of birds, primates, elephants and giraffes, as well as native Australian wildlife like the wombat, a marsupial that burrows instead of climbing trees like its well-known relative, the koala.

Currently, Taronga is home to a baby wombat named Mirrhi that's being raised by Amy Twentyman, a wildlife nurse. Mirrhi—the Aboriginal word for “little girl”—was orphaned after her mother was struck and killed by a car. “She was thrown out of the pouch,” Amy says. “But, luckily, the people that found her bought her to the wildlife hospital, and we’ve had her ever since.” The zoo's wildlife hospital treats and rehabilitates up to 1,500 native animals every year, and their goal is to return as many animals as possible back into the wild.

Watch Amy and Mirrhi interact. Watch

Taronga zoo keepers like Amy often become surrogate parents to orphaned animals, and just like any mom, Amy is responsible for getting up at all hours of the night to feed and tend to Mirrhi's needs. “It’s harder than a human baby though. I can’t just pop down to the shops with a wombat, so I have to time everything around the feeds,” Amy says. “It’s very much a balancing act.”

After spending months at a time with baby animals like Mirrhi, Amy admits she does get attached. “She’s my little baby,” Amy says. “I don’t have children of my own. I have animals.”