Activities, Natural sights
Australia Zoo is a 100-acre (40 ha) zoo located in the Australian state of Queensland on the Sunshine Coast near Beerwah/Glass House Mountains. It is a member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA), and is owned by Terri Irwin, the widow of Steve Irwin, whose wildlife documentary series The Crocodile Hunter made the zoo a popular tourist attraction. The zoo is run by Director Wes Mannion.
Australia Zoo was opened by Bob and Lyn Irwin on 3 June 1970 under the name Beerwah Reptile and Fauna Park. Their son Steve, had helped his parents since childhood to care for crocodiles and reptiles and to maintain the growing number of animals in the zoo. In 1982 the park was renamed the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park and the area was doubled with the purchase of another 4 acres (1.6 ha). Steve and Terri changed the name of their now growing wildlife park to Australia Zoo. As filming generated extra funds, Steve and Terri put all money raised from filming and merchandise into conservation and building new exhibits.
Australia Zoo won the Australian Tourism Awards for 2003–2004 in the category Major Tourist Attraction. In 2004, the Australian Animal Hospital was opened next to the zoo to help with animal care and rehabilitation. More recently, the zoo was a finalist in two categories for the 2010 Queensland Tourism Awards. Visitors will see a wide variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles, and can view crocodile feedings, hand-feed elephants, and have hands-on animal encounters.
Australia Zoo was opened by Bob and Lyn Irwin on 3 June 1970 under the name Beerwah Reptile Park. Bob is a world-renowned herpetologist, who is regarded as a pioneer in the keeping and breeding of reptiles, while Lyn was one of the first to care for and rehabilitate sick and injured wildlife in southeast Queensland. Bob and Lyn passed on their love and respect for wildlife to their three children: Joy, Steve, and Mandy. Steve had helped Bob and Lyn since childhood to care for crocodiles and reptiles and to maintain the growing number of animals in the zoo. In 1982, the park was renamed the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park and the area was doubled with the purchase of another 4 acres (1.6 ha). In 1987, the Crocodile Environmental Park was opened in an effort to aid saltwater crocodile protection. By the 1990s the Crocodile Environmental Park had become very popular and was seen as unique for its display of crocodile feeding within the park. The area was mainly used to house adult saltwater crocodiles that had been captured and relocated from the wild.
The 1990s brought many changes: Bob and Lyn retired and moved to Rosedale, Queensland, while Steve and Terri changed the name of their now growing wildlife park to Australia Zoo. As filming generated extra funds, Steve and Terri put all money raised from filming and merchandise into conservation and building new exhibits. Their philosophy was that the zoo animals came first, the zoo team came second, and the zoo visitors came third. The zoo also expanded with the creation of a management team and hiring around 50 staff. Australia Zoo won the Australian Tourism Awards for 2003-2004 in the category Major Tourist Attraction. In 2004, the Australian Animal Hospital was opened next to the zoo to help with animal care and rehabilitation. The facility was built in an old avocado packing shed, and was dedicated to Lyn. The facility had a single operating room, and with a staff of 20 full-time workers and 80 volunteers, it cared for up to 6,000 animals per year. Steve Irwin died in 2006, the same year Australia Zoo Retail won the Tourism Retailing Award from Qantas Australian Tourism Awards.
In 2007, the zoo and the Government of Queensland made a land deal involving giving a parcel of land from the Beerwah State Forest to Australia Zoo in return for land near Peachester State Forest which was transferred to the government for forestry. The swap permitted the development of an open-range safari attraction, allowing the zoo to expand to a world-class standard. In 2008, a new $5 million animal hospital, claimed to be the largest wildlife hospital in the world, opened next to the packing shed. The new 1,300-square-metre (14,000 sq ft) facility is built of mud brick and hay. It contains two operating theaters with viewing areas for student veterinarians, two treatment rooms, intensive care units for mammals, birds, and reptiles, a CAT scan room, and public areas including a drop-off area, pharmacy, nursery, and waiting room. A conference room in the building will be rented out to help generate operating funds.
On 2 March 2008 it was announced that Bob Irwin, the founder, had resigned from Australia Zoo, in order to "keep his son's dream alive" on a different property. In a statement to the press, he thanked the staff for all their help but made no mention of Terri Irwin. At the same time, the zoo was being sued for $2.5 million by a debt collection agency, but the lawsuit was later dropped in an out-of-court settlement.
On 15 March 2008 the Brisbane-based newspaper, The Sunday Mail, claimed there are plans to sell Australia Zoo to Animal Planet and create a $100-million Disney-style wildlife theme park. Terri has publicly announced that she has no plans to sell the zoo, but is looking to expand the park. Despite rumours that she intended to return to the United States, Terri denied the claims and became an Australian citizen on 20 November 2009.
By 2010, the zoo had grown to 76 acres (31 ha), which will eventually be expanded with an additional 135-hectare (334-acre) safari park with hotel.
Construction on the Australia Zoo Safari Lodge began mid 2008 and was due to be finished and operational by the end of 2009. However, due to the economic situation, Australia Zoo decided to put all of its expansion plans on hold. During the beginning of 2011, up to 30 staff members had their employment terminated which management blamed on low visitor numbers due to the Queensland floods and global economic crisis. On 22 February 2011, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the zoo was "on the brink of ruin". Irwin's widow has since denied press reports fuelled by ex-employees that the zoo is facing closure due to the financial crisis.
The zoo is managed by Director Wes Mannion. The Australia Zoo business is owned by Australia Zoo Pty Ltd, but the land on which the zoo is located, and most of the surrounding area, is owned by Silverback Properties Pty Ltd. Food courts and merchandising at the zoo are operated and maintained by Muscillo Holdings Pty Ltd.
The zoo contains a wide range of birds, mammals and reptiles.
The 'Animal Planet Crocoseum' stadium at the zoo has a seating capacity of about 5000. At the time of its construction, it was the first in the world where snake, bird and crocodile shows were conducted. Australia Zoo calls these shows 'Wildlife Warriors 101'. This is also where the zoo presents concerts, such as the Summer Down Under series.
On 17 September 2011, the zoo opened its African Safari exhibit, a multi-species replica of the Serengeti ecosystem, showcasing zebras, rhinos, and giraffes interacting as they would in the wild. Cheetahs are also on display, but not in the area where the other animals are. The exhibit includes Queensland bottle trees reflecting the native African baobab tree and mock kopjes.
Construction of an artificial island (to represent the island of Madagascar), began in 2006, which will accommodate African animals such as tortoises, lemurs and other species not yet represented, will be completed during stage two of the zoo's Africa exhibit.
Opened in April 2005, this exhibit houses both Sumatran and Bengal tigers. The exhibit was built to resemble the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. It is enclosed on two sides by glass, and includes an underwater viewing area.
Elephantasia was an 12-acre (4.9 ha) Asian themed exhibit that opened in 2006, and was the largest Asian elephant enclosure in Australia. It included a wading pool with a fountain, and tropical gardens with shaded areas for the zoo's elephants. Australia Zoo no longer holds elephants as the last surviving elephant was returned to Sydney.
Other Asian animals have been moved into exhibits close to Tiger Temple and Elephantasia that have been designed to mimic their native environments. Animals in this precinct include Komodo dragons, red pandas, Asian small-clawed otters, and Burmese pythons.
The Rainforest Aviary is an outdoor walk-through aviary housing about 150 birds, most of which are native to Australia. Adjacent to the Rainforest Aviary is the Birds of Prey aviary, which holds various species of raptors and other predatory birds.
Visitors can eat at the open air upper story "Food Court" of the "Taj Mahal" building (which seats up to 1,500), at the Dingo Diner, or at several food vending stands around the zoo.
To get around the zoo, visitors can take Steve's Safari Shuttle, a 'modified trailered bus' that operates on a bitumen (asphalt) roadway circuit. Visitors can also hire a caddie to drive themselves around the zoo for the day.
The zoo includes two shaded playgrounds.
Visitors can view crocodile feedings and participate in elephant feedings. Elephant feedings are on the roadway circuit at the first crossover to the internal section of the zoo in the mornings, and at 'Elephantasia' in the afternoons.
There are 4 walk-through enclosures that visitors can enter and feed kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas, and there is often an opportunity to pet a koala when staff are in the exhibit.
The zoo also offers a roving animal team that walks around the grounds throughout the day with various animals such as alligators, birds, snakes, and lizards. Visitors may have their photo taken with the animals and can purchase professional copies from the zoo's photo lab.
Wildlife Warriors runs a rescue operation and care station for any native wildlife which may be injured in accidents outside the zoo.
This effort is now supported by the 1,300-square-metre (14,000 sq ft) Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital next to the zoo, which can care for up to 10,000 animals per year, with two operating theaters, two treatment rooms, intensive care units for mammals, birds, and reptiles, and a CAT scan room, and was designed by WD Architects. The hospital is named in honor of Steve Irwin's mother Lynn Irwin, who died in a car accident in 2000.
The zoo also runs International Crocodile Rescue, which helps capture and (if necessary) relocate "problem crocodiles." The organization currently has five locations in Australia and another five worldwide, all equipped to handle capture and relocation. The zoo has taken in many of the captured crocodiles when it was deemed that they could not be relocated and released. The crocodile rescue unit runs a rehabilitation facility on the grounds of Australia Zoo that can house full grown male saltwater crocodiles.
Croc One is Australia Zoos research vessel that is used around Australia to conduct marine and land based research. Its most notable usage is for the "Crocs in space" program led by Professor Craig Franklin of the University of Queensland. Croc One is also the vessel on which Steve Irwin died after his heart was pierced by a stingray barb. Croc One is moored at Mooloolaba wharf.
Whale One is a custom built commercial usage vessel owned and operated by Australia Zoo for whale watching at Mooloolaba. It is moored along with Croc One at Mooloolaba wharf.
This 135,000-hectare (330,000-acre) property was acquired with the assistance of the Australian government as part of the National Reserve System Programme. It is located on the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, and contains spring fed wetlands that provide a water source to threatened habitat and the Wenlock River.
Australia Zoo purchased the 3,500 acres (1,400 ha) Iron Bark Station located at Blackbutt, Queensland in 1994. It is part of the great dividing Range, where the East coast meets the dry West. An additional 325 acres (132 ha) was purchased in 1994 to save a dwindling koala population, with fewer than 12 koalas left in the area. Management immediately commenced reforestation, including 44,000 eucalypt trees for koalas. In 1998, another 325 acres (132 ha) was purchased. In 1999, a 5 acres (2.0 ha) release facility was established to rehabilitate native marsupials the area. Another 1,000 acres (400 ha) was purchased in 1999 with funds from the Lynn Irwin Memorial fund (now Wildlife Warriors Worldwide), and another 1,800 acres (730 ha) was added in 2002. In 2007, Bob Irwin became full-time manager of the station.
The zoo purchased 250 acres (100 ha) of Australian heathland in 2002 to help preserve endangered flora and fauna of the area. Animals that can be found on this property include black cockatoos (red-tailed, yellow-tailed, and glossy), species of glider including greater gliders, sugar gliders, squirrel gliders, and feathertail glider, acid frogs, echidnas, antechinus, Richmond birdwing butterflies, and platypus.
The 84,000-acre (34,000 ha) Westbore property, located outside St George in the Southwestern corner of Queensland, was purchased to help conserve the semi arid ecosystems and wildlife in that part of the country. It is located on the edge of acacia woodland in what is known as the "Brigalow Belt".
In March 2008, the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital was accused of animal 'cruelty' and of breaking Australian law 13 times by not releasing rehabilitated koalas within their prescribed habitats. The Environment Protection Association said that they are now monitoring and investigating why the koalas were not released correctly. Hospital officials have defended their actions on the grounds that injured koalas found near busy roads or in urban developments cannot safely be released to the same areas.
A second incident on 8 March 2009, involving a Sumatran tiger called 'Juma', also saw a keeper taken to hospital. This incident was minor and the keeper only required two stitches to a gash in their arm. Juma was hand raised at the zoo and Zoo Director Wes Mannion said "the scratch was part of a rougher than usual playtime, not an attack."
On 26 November 2013, a trainer was bitten during a play session, again by a tiger. The 30-year-old man had nine years animal handling experience at the zoo. He received bite injuries to the neck and shoulder, and was flown to Royal Brisbane Hospital. His condition was initially stated to be "serious but stable." He recovered well.
On 29 July 2014, a tiger keeper was injured during a demonstration the tiger involved was 'Juma', the keeper made a full recovery.