Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park
Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park is a 25-acre (10 ha) biopark within the Pearcedale Conservation Park located at Pearcedale on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne, Australia. It aims to display the fauna that was found in the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve prior to European settlement. The park is open all year except on Christmas Day. The sanctuary, as part of Pearcedale Conservation Park, is an institutional member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA). It is ECO Certified at the Ecotourism level by Ecotourism Australia.
Development of the zoo started in December 1998, with construction of a visitor center, a 2-acre (0.81 ha) wetland habitat with a lake, and more than 30 animal enclosures, as well as many Australian trees and other plants. The zoo was opened in September 2001.
Moonlit Sanctuary operates evening walks, which are an environmental immersion experience. A guide takes visitors on a walk through natural bushland where the guide spotlights a variety of nocturnal animals, many of them endangered. The guide gives talks about the animals, and answers visitors’ questions. Visitors come into close contact with the animals in their natural habitats and can observe their natural behaviours. This is different visitor experience from a normal zoo visit where visitors view a large number of species for short periods of time and rarely bother reading signs. Moonlit Sanctuary visitors spend longer periods of time with a small number of animals, and receive a lot of information from the accompanying guide.
Moonlit Sanctuary is also open during the day, where visitors get an experience closer to a normal zoo. It operates education services for school children, and provides research facilities for graduate students. It also engages in conservation breeding of endangered species.
Animals kept at the Sanctuary include spot-tailed quolls, southern bettongs, squirrel gliders, long-nosed potoroo, red-bellied pademelon, spinifex hopping mouse, fat-tailed dunnart, brush-tailed bettong, red-necked wallaby, feathertail glider, sugar glider, Tasmanian masked owl, tawny frogmouth, Cape Barren goose, bush thicknee, Victorian carpet python, blue-tongue lizard, and Gippsland water-dragon. In total over 200 animals representing 60 different species call the sanctuary home.
Moonlit has successfully bred a number of rare and endangered species including southern bettong (aka eastern bettong), eastern quoll, Julia Creek dunnart, fluffy glider (yellow-bellied glider) and squirrel glider. The eastern quoll and southern bettong are now extinct on the mainland and only found in the wild in Tasmania. Moonlit Sanctuary has the only southern bettongs on mainland Australia.
In 2009 Moonlit Sanctuary won the Victorian Keep Australia Beautiful award for Preservation of the Environment with an emphasis on local fauna and flora.
In 2010 Moonlit Sanctuary won the Victorian Tourism Award for Ecotourism., and won this award for a second time in 2014.