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Vic zoos cancel close encounters

Victoria’s state-run zoos have restricted visitor access to certain animals to prevent them from being exposed to foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), as Liberal leader Peter Dutton continued to call on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to shut Australia’s border with Indonesia.

Indonesia is currently battling an outbreak of the highly contagious disease. The new zoo precautions* come as foot sanitization* mats for returned travelers were expected to be in place at Melbourne airport by Tuesday.

Zoos Victoria chief executive Jenny Gray said paid encounters with giraffes, kangaroos and elephants were cancelled, following briefings about the risk foot-and-mouth disease poses to the animals’ health.

Paid encounters are upgraded bookings that involve visitors being guided through an animal exhibit by a zookeeper.

The change – which won’t impact looking at the animals – applies to Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary. Other zoos around Australia are expected to introduce similar measures.

“We are exercising an abundance of caution* to ensure the animals in our care remain as safe as possible, so upcoming paid encounters with giraffe, kangaroo and elephants have been canceled and will be automatically refunded,” Dr Gray said.

“We are reviewing the situation and our containment* measures daily.”

Biosecurity* measures have stepped up at airports around the country, but Mr Dutton maintained the border should be closed with Australia’s northern neighbour.

“I believe the borders should be closed absent the information that the government’s got,” the Opposition Leader said.

“If we get a single case here, a single sheep, a single beast, the whole export* industry for our country closes down. It’s an $80 billion impact on the economy.

“If the Prime Minister has a reason as to why the borders shouldn’t be closed…let him explain it. But so far, he hasn’t been able to do that.”

The Coalition’s own position on the border had been unclear. Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce and Liberal MP Karen Andrews also demanded the government close the border, while Nationals MP David Littleproud and Senator Bridget McKenzie were last week reluctant to go that far.

Peak bodies representing the meat and farm industries have rejected calls to close the border with Indonesia, a measure Mr Albanese deemed not yet necessary.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said the government would continue implementing* measures to keep Australia foot-and-mouth disease free.

A federal Agriculture Department spokesman said mats to clean travellers’ shoes were being deployed* in Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin and Perth from Monday, Cairns and Adelaide from Tuesday, with Brisbane to likely follow this week.

He said the department required the support of airports to put them in place.

The Australian Embassy in Indonesia has also confirmed mats are now in place at Indonesian airports.


FMD is a highly contagious virus that affects cloven-hoofed animals – those with a divided hoof – including livestock* such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.


People can carry the virus on their shoes, clothes or in their noses – where it can survive for up to 24 hours.

But animal product imports are the biggest risk, with departmental advice showing it would be more likely for FMD to be brought into the country through parcels than by a traveler.


FMD is not to be confused with hand, foot and mouth, which is a very common childhood virus that is easily passed from person to person. That virus is not related to FMD, which affects animals.

Signs of FMD in livestock include blisters in and around the mouth area, difficulty eating and drinking, drooling, limping or lameness*


Agriculture Minister Murray Watt confirmed the products did not pose a threat to human consumption.

“Let’s say it’s in a salami roll that’s been imported to Australia,” he said. “People have most of the salami, they might throw the scraps in the pig scraps… along with other vegetables and other things.

“If pigs were to eat that, that would be a risk of the virus then being transmitted to Australian pigs and potentially to other animals as well.

“So that’s the nature of the risk.”


Senator Watt confirmed routine surveillance* had already detected FMD and African Swine Flu fragments on animal products on sale in the Melbourne CBD, but authorities had seized all affected stock across retailers and warehouses.


Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences modelling* has previously projected a widespread FMD outbreak in Australia would have an estimated direct economic impact of about $80 billion.


Last week the federal government announced a $14 million support package for the nation’s defense against FMD.

It included $5 million for a technical support package for Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to manage livestock disease and $9 million to be spent at Australia’s borders, providing 18 new biosecurity officers at airports and mail centers.

Additional reporting by Madura McCormack


  • precautions: actions or responses to prevent something bad or dangerous happening
  • sanitation: making something completely clean and free from bacteria
  • caution: care taken to avoid or reduce danger, trouble, hazards
  • containment: act or process of controlling or limiting something or someone harmful
  • biosafety: government’s efforts to prevent, respond to and recover from pests and diseases threatening the economy and environment
  • export: good or service produced in Australia that is sold overseas
  • implementing: putting a plan into effect
  • deployed: used as intended, put in place, in position, installed
  • livestock: animals kept on a farm, like cows and sheep
  • licking: being unable to walk properly due to injury or weakness in legs or feet
  • surveillance: close observation, scrutiny, monitoring
  • modelling: calculating or predicting what might happen using mathematical inputs


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  1. Which near neighbor of Australia’s is battling and outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease?
  2. What is the estimated cost to the Australian economy should there be an outbreak here?
  3. What measures have been introduced at some Victorian zoos to protect animals at risk?
  4. What is being installed in airports around Australia?
  5. What has Opposition Leader Peter Dutton called on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to do?


1. Protecting Australia from FMD
The following people are key players in the debate on how to best protect Australian livestock from the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak in Indonesia. They all have differing views on whether Australia should close the border to Indonesia:

Anthony Albanese – Prime Minister

Peter Dutton – Liberal Leader

Barnaby Joyce–Nationals MP

Karen Andrews – Liberal MP

David Littleproud – Nationals MP

Bridget McKenzie – Senator

Murray Watt – Agriculture Minister

Peak bodies representing meat and farm industries

Create a four-column table headed PERSON/GROUP, CLOSE BORDER, DON’T CLOSE BORDER and REASONS

Under PERSON/GROUP, write each of these names. Next to each name, tick which side they are on – close border or not close border – and what their reasons might be for this view.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Humanities; Critical and Creative Thinking

Work with a partner and suggest some other measures Australia and Indonesia could put in place to prevent the FMD outbreak from spreading to Australia. List them below.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Personal and Social; Critical and Creative Thinking

Summarize the article
A summary is a brief statement of the main points of something. It does not usually include extra detail or elaborate on the main points.

Use the 5W & H model to help you find the key points of this article. Read the article carefully to locate who and what this article is about, and where, when, why and how this is happening. Once you have located this information in the article, use it to write a paragraph that summarizes the article.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science

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