Awesome way to learn about animals

Chris Humphrey's new book is a lot of fun.

By Melissa Grant

If your child is obsessed with animals, then the new interactive book by Australian zoologist and TV presenter Chris Humfrey is a must-have.

Dubbed as Australia’s own Doctor Dolittle, Chris is a leading expert on native creatures big and small.

His book, Awesome Australian Animals, offers amazing insights into a number of species through quirky facts (such as koalas poop 200 times a day) and QR codes linking to fun educational videos.

Small children will love the wealth of exciting and funny photos, primary school kids can read at their own pace, and older children can dive into deeper levels of intriguing detail.

Profiled animals include the koala, lace monitor, giant burrowing cockroach, saltwater crocodile, shingleback and jungle carpet python.

Awesome Australian Animals is the latest venture from the lifelong conservationist and animal welfare crusader.

Chris has an animal sanctuary, Wild Action Zoo, in the Macedon Ranges, which houses many rare native species including penguins, tiger quolls, snakes and even blue-ringed octopus.

He lives in a house designed for people and animals, which he describes as “unusual”.

“Currently, I have two joey kangaroos sleeping on my couch, two parrots walking over my laptop, 55 critically endangered mountain pygmy possums in my laundry/wine cellar, two black-headed pythons on the lounge room floor, two sheep sitting on the back veranda, two possums in the garage, an Eastern quoll and a koala and an owl in the garage. It’s bedlam!” he said.

Chris’s passion for animals big and small stems from his childhood. He grew up in the foothills of Mount Dandenong, with his family’s backyard bordering onto the bush.

“I spent most of my youth jumping the backyard fence and exploring and interacting with local wildlife,” he said.

“I would spend the day chasing lizards, snakes, and frogs and only came home for dinner. I had hundreds of pets with which I lovingly shared my life.

“My mum helped me rescue and rehabilitate possums and injured birds and my dad built me a purpose-built insulated reptile house.

“I vividly remember sleeping outside in the reptile shed, waiting for my blue-tongued lizard to give birth. I watched the whole process, it was awesome!”

Amazingly, Chris still has some animal friends from his childhood, including Freddo the green tree frog which he found sticking to a urinal at a public toilet block.

Chris is “super pumped” about his new book, which took him almost a year to put together. He had to write the text, film the clips and take the photos.

Chris believes kids are the key to saving Australia’s precious wildlife and, through his book, aims to empower a young army of animal allies.

“We must teach children the importance of protecting all creatures, not just their favourites,” he said.

“I hope that my enthusiasm and passion for all things wild is contagious, and rubs off on the reader.”

Chris Humfrey’s Awesome Australian Animals, Reed New Holland, an imprint of New Holland Publishers, RRP $19.99, available from all good book retailers or online,