No 'gidday mate' coming from this Aussie

21:06, Jun 26 2013
Mulloka the Brolga
AUSSIE AMBASSADOR: Brooklands Zoo’s latest arrival Mulloka, the Australian brolga, spreads his wings as he tries out his new enclosure.

Mulloka, the Australian brolga, was none too impressed when he arrived at Brooklands Zoo yesterday, but he didn't take too long to settle in.

The 10-month-old bird, which has its wings clipped, was hatched at Auckland Zoo but ousted from the brolga flock there when his parents began breeding again, assistant curator Eve Cozzi said.

"He was hissing inside his crate when he arrived, but we're thrilled with how he's settled in so quickly," she said.

Brolga are part of the crane family and Mulloka, whose name means "water spirit" in Aborigine, already stands 1.3 metres tall and could reach up to 1.5m.

Ms Cozzi said Brooklands Zoo hoped the somewhat "regal -looking" Mulloka would be an "ambassador" and help to educate people about the loss of wetlands, which is the blue-grey crane's natural habitat.

Mulloka has taken over a portion of the farmyard area at the zoo, which has been transformed to replicate a wetland.

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Alterations have included installing a 1.9m fence, adding a small concrete pond and planting a variety of greenery.

Ms Cozzi said planting was not yet finished because zoo staff were waiting to see which plants Mulloka would try to rip out first.

"They have really powerful beaks designed to dig up roots and tubers, and look for bugs," she said.

"We're expecting he'll have some fun ripping out some of the plants we've put in.

"In the meantime, it'll be excellent enrichment for him."

Ms Cozzi said brolga were considered fairly easy to keep and Mulloka, who was an omnivore, would be fed on a variety of food including raw meat, dead mice, live insects, vegetables, corn and maize.

"Auckland Zoo staff said he liked to play with twigs and flick them up in the air.

"He seems very easy-going so far," she said.

Brolga, which are not considered at risk in the wild, are well known for their interesting mating dance that involves jumping and leaping around and flapping their wings, while calling out and bowing to each other.

But at this stage there are no plans to find a mate for Mulloka, who may be joined by one of his siblings next year.

Jessica Howatson is a Witt journalism student

Taranaki Daily News