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CNN Today

Unspoiled Kangaroo Island, Australia, Home to Numerous Species

Aired September 15, 2000 - 2:35 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS: While most of the sporting world's attention will be focused on Sydney for the next couple of weeks, CNN's travel unit has been getting an Olympic-sized tour of Australia.

Here's a look at Carolyn O'Neil's visit to the nearly unspoiled Kangaroo Island.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAROLYN O'NEIL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The landscape is a patchwork of tiny towns, wilderness and farmland, forming Australia's third-largest island. It lies off the coast of south Australia, about a half-hour flight from the city of Adelaide. Kangaroo Island has one remarkable feature after another.

CRAIG WICKHAM, ADVENTURE CHARTERS: This is called Little Sahara, and you get a feel for the idea why.

Great spot for seeing who's been around overnight. There's all sorts of tracks here, little tiny wallaby tracks there.

O'NEIL: One of the best ways to see the island is by guided tour. We hired naturalist Craig Wickham of Adventure Charters. His company provides plenty of inspiring sites -- even a delicious meal.

(on camera): Now you're preparing a gourmet lunch. This is amazing.

WICKHAM: Man cannot live on Kangaroo alone.

O'NEIL (voice-over): Of course, he's kidding; no kangaroo on this menu.

WICKHAM: Dig in.

O'NEIL (on camera): Dig in.

CRAIG WICKHAM, ADVENTURE CHARTERS: You know, a lot of people say that it's everything they expected all of Australia to be. You know, there's lots of open space, all the wildlife they're expecting.

O'NEIL (voice-over): While 4,000 people live on Kangaroo Island, animals dominate; 800,000 sheep are raised here, and there are 251 recorded species of birds.

Look high into the trees, and you may spot one of the island's 5,000 koalas. This famous marsupial sleeps 20 hours a day and eats exclusively from the gum, or eucalyptus, tree.

(on camera): And, of course, there are kangaroos on Kangaroo Island, an exciting site for first-time visitors. In fact, there are so many here, the drivers have to watch out for them.

Oh my God. I'm sorry. They've got my notes.

(voice-over): And obviously not afraid to approach humans. The temptation to touch is hard to resist. It's an ongoing struggle: balancing the enthusiasm of visitors without disrupting the animals and their natural behaviors.

Along the roads, signs warned to keep a lookout.

WICKHAM: And if you see one, you then, sort of, back off, because you know there's another one. His mate's following soon after.

They're creatures of habit. You see really well-defined paths where they come crossing every day, every night.

O'NEIL: There are 45 different kinds of kangaroos in Australia. These are unique to this island.

WICKHAM: The island was joined to the mainland, most recently, up until about 12,000 years ago. So, since that time, the kangaroos on the island have been isolated.

O'NEIL: A drive to see one kind of animal often leads to sightings of others.

WICKHAM: A wallaby is, simply, just a small species of kangaroo.

I guess we would start to worry if we didn't see the animals on the road, because it's an index of just how abundant they are.

O'NEIL: We also spotted this prickly creature, the echidna, or spiny anteater. It's an egg-laying mammal.

Then, on to Seal Bay Conservation Park. Where a short walk leads to the beach and a colony of Australian sea lions.

PRUE COULLS, SEAL BAY CONSERVATION PARK: You get down onto the beach and you get absolutely no reaction at all from the sea lion. The animals are so used to our behavior that they don't even move.

You see the blond line on the back of the head? They get that when they reach about eight or nine years of age, just the males, and that's when we call them bulls. And that blond mane is probably the reason they're called sea lions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was shocked. They're just everywhere, and they're big.

It's quite impressive. I didn't realize we could get that close.

WICKHAM: People are traveling because they want to go to unspoiled places and see wildlife -- and that's something which we need to be aware of, because the local people want to take it in, too. You want the benefits of tourism, but you don't want to see it lose the very things which we enjoy about living here.

O'NEIL: It's an issue sure to demand more attention as Kangaroo Island and its wealth of natural treasures bask in the glow of the tourism spotlight.

Carolyn O'Neil, CNN, Kangaroo Island, Australia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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