Up close and personal with world's endangered animals
IN Central NSW some of the most endangered animals in the world can be found.
There is a group of Scimitar Horned Oryx, a species of antelope that is extinct in the wild.
There is one Bongo Antelope, a critically endangered animal.
There is also a pack of African Wild Dogs, an endangered species that has successfully been bred at this facility.
Where are we? At the Altina Wildlife Park in Darlington Point.
My husband and I recently took our two young children there. And it was fantastic. So fantastic it deserved a write-up.
The park runs guided tours twice a day on either a Clydesdale-drawn or motorised cart.
On the day we went there was only one other family booked so we were taken around the park on the back of their customised ute.
Before setting off on our tour, we entered the small animal enclosure where we saw crocodiles and alligators, cheeky meerkats, monkeys, wombats and the only South American Coati in Australia.
Our guide Alyssa was informative and friendly, cracking jokes while educating us about each of the animals.
The park has an impressive collection of deer and antelope from all over the world.
As we were chauffeured around the park, Alyssa stopped at each enclosure, telling us about each animal.
We helped her feed the European Fallow Deer, Hog Deer and Barbary Sheep.
We also saw Asian Water Buffalo, American Bison and White Rhinos.
After the open paddocks we stopped to personally feed their flock of goats, watch the largest rodents in the world, the Capybaras, try to coax the nocturnal Bongo from his bed and rig branches up a pole for the giraffes.
Then we stopped at the hyenas. Pulling on a pair of rubber gloves, Alyssa performed a physical on the pair, getting them to stand up to inspect their paws and underbellies and checking their teeth before rewarding them with pieces of meat.
But my favourite? The resident white lions.
There is a male, a lioness called Bella and four juveniles.
Alyssa said when Bella arrived at the park she had been on contraception. Expecting it to take up to five years to get out of her system they got a nice surprise when one morning they discovered four cubs in their den.
The two males were moved into their own enclosure when they hit two years of age. In the wild, this is when they would have been kicked out of the pride.
Alyssa got Bella to stand up inside the enclosure, checking her over. She then got her to roar. It was magical.
The wildlife park offers behind the scenes encounters including a lion feeding experience. I'd love to go.
After the lions, Alyssa told us to get our cameras ready and pulled out a chunk of meat. She then threw it among a large pack of African Wild Dogs that have been bred at the park.
We expected the meat to be inhaled, but the mother caught it and led her pups on a chase around the enclosure. After a few minutes they were still going so we left them to it.
On our way back we passed a zebra, fed a herd of greedy camels and our last stop was the Mongolian Wild Horses.
This species of horse was almost wiped out by Genghis Khan in the 13th century but Altina has been instrumental in a international program, breeding three young - two females and a male.
Back at the park's base, there is a museum full of taxidermy animals.
All of the animals died naturally at the park and instead of disposing of them, they have been restored to their former glory.
So, if you're ever in Central NSW or NSW, it is well worth making the trip to Altina Wildlife Park to see some of the world's most endangered animals up close and personal.