Two red-necked female wallaby joeys that were being hand-raised by zoo officials and are expected to join other animals at Walkabout Australia. Photo: Christina Simmons/San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The new $17.4 million Walkabout Australia at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is set to open May 25, and officials are already touting the “wonders from Down Under” residing at the 3.6-acre exhibit.

Featured animals include western gray kangaroos, red-necked wallabies, brush turkeys, radjah shelducks, freckled ducks, magpie geese, double-wattled cassowaries, Matschie’s tree kangaroos, kookaburras, red-breasted cockatoos, echidnas, sugar gliders and wombats.

“Australia is an extraordinary place, and we are thrilled to provide a snapshot of some of the wonders from Down Under at the all-new Walkabout Australia experience at the Safari Park,” said Lisa Peterson, director, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Not only does Walkabout Australia allow us to connect people to Australia’s fascinating wildlife, but it adds another dimension to San Diego Zoo Global’s efforts to save endangered species, such as the cassowary and Matschie’s tree kangaroo.”

Walkabout Australia takes guests through four different types of native habitats: grassland, rain forest, wetlands and desert. The exhibit’s aim is to provide visitors with an immersive experience, according to zoo officials. For example, a pathway with no barriers leads guests through an expansive meadow, home to a large group of western gray kangaroos, red-necked wallabies and brush turkeys. While guests are asked to stay on the pathway, the kangaroos and wallabies are welcome to get quite close to visitors.

Another example is at the far side of the grassland, at the Aussie Animal Station, where guests may come nose-to-nose with animals like a wombat, echidna, blue-tongued skink, woma or sugar glider. Accompanied by their keepers, these animals will be available for up-close encounters several times throughout the day.

“This unique opportunity is similar to experiences offered by zoos in Australia, which are a key part of their work to engage local communities in species preservation,” according to a statement from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

In addition to providing visitors with up-close views, the new exhibit addresses changing climate conditions. Australia — like California — is experiencing longer and more widespread periods of drought, along with an increase in wildfires. As a result, water is a more precious resource than ever before. Walkabout Australia explores the vital connection between water and the animals and people that depend on it.

For more information, visit www.sdzsafaripark.org/Walkabout.