KF: What makes Australian wildlife unique, in your opinion?

PM: I think it's unique because Australia is such an isolated country, and it's actually had an interesting history as the Ice Ages have come and gone. We're moving toward the equator, so we've had relatively stable time, which means animals here haven't had to change as much as animals have changed in other continents. That's why, here, you met marsupials—egg-laying mammals—and pouch mammals that don't exist in other continents. It's almost like a land that time has half forgotten, and I love the fact that our animals are only found here. They are so different—the koala, the echidna, the platypus—are just mind-blowingly unique.

KF: Tell us more about those animals.

PM: They're amazing. The echidna is probably the oldest mammal. Their fossil records go back 55 million years! If I did a checklist of my most successful mammal, that would be at the top of my list because they are the most widely found mammal, and their population has stayed the same. It's like having all the cars in America and having your best car being your oldest car—I just love that. I love how charismatic they are and how amazing they are that they're just still here doing their business after such a long period of time.

Next: What sets Taronga apart from other zoos


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