"G'Day Mate!" Hattiesburg Zoo opens interactive Australia exhibit

"G'Day Mate!" Hattiesburg Zoo opens interactive Australia exhibit
The 'Wallaby Walkabout' is now open at the Hattiesburg Zoo. Source: WDAM.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The next time you visit the Hattiesburg Zoo, you can go one-on-one with a wallaby!

The zoo officially opened the fourth continent to the property, Australia, Friday, which includes an interactive "Wallaby Walkabout" exhibit.

"This is a barrier-free exhibit," said Rick Taylor, the Executive Director for the Hattiesburg Convention Commission.  "The guests are able to go inside with no barriers between them and the animal and they will be able to interact with the wallabies, as well as the emus and the Kunekune pig."

Visitors are allowed to walk right through the gate and next to the animals in their habitat.  Taylor said the wallabies, which is comparable to a small kangaroo, are a little timid, but he hopes with time they will become more friendly with people.  The main rule for visitors is to stay on the sidewalk and let the animals approach them.

"A big part of our work is education and conservation, and so each exhibit we open expands what we are able to communicate to the public, to the community and why we should preserve it," Taylor said.

Right now, there are four wallabies in the exhibit - three sterile males and one fertile female.  Taylor said the zoo hopes to get another fertile male for the exhibit, with hopes to have baby wallabies one day.

"Adding exhibits causes people to come back, but also causes different people to come," Taylor said.  "All of that creates an upward cycle that allows us to have the money to add giraffes and other animals."

Last month, the  convention commission announces plans to bring a giraffe to the Hattiesburg Zoo as a new, premier animal exhibit.'  As the attraction expands, Taylor said it may cost visitors more to get into the zoo. 

"We do think as we continue to grow and that there's more to do and more value based on that, we will look at some admission increases," Taylor said.

The 'Wallaby Walkabout' will be open during normal zoo hours.