- Study finds no barriers to open range zoo in the Avon Valley
Animals such as elephants, bears, lions, pygmy hippopotamuses, baboons and giraffes; and a unique Australian animal experience could be part of the open range zoo being planned for Lower Chittering, Premier and Tourism Minister Colin Barnett said today.
The Premier said an initial assessment of the environmental conditions, including water, soil condition, flora and fauna, biosecurity, fire and landscape management had found there was no impediment to establishing an open range zoo at the 700 hectare site, just over 60 kilometres from Perth.
Mr Barnett said Perth Zoo's 19 hectares was no longer the most optimal site for open range animals and breeding opportunities had decreased for some of these species over the past 16 years.
"People prefer to see large animals in big open areas similar to their natural habitat. While Perth Zoo remains excellent for smaller or tropical species, the establishment of an open range zoo will allow Perth Zoo to continue its important breeding and conservation work for the larger open range animals whose numbers are dramatically declining in the wild," he said.
"The environmental assessment found the mix of cleared and existing vegetation at the site was favourable to both conservation programs and grazing use. It also found the setting was appropriate for visitor infrastructure and open viewing areas overlooking animals."
The Premier said the assessment found that in addition to exotic species, there was great potential for Australian animal experiences. This could include large walk-through areas with emu and western grey kangaroos and a billabong created by enhancing an existing spring, which would attract endemic animals and birds.
The site was also suitable for visitor amenities such as cafes, restaurants, nature playgrounds; access for people with disabilities; safari tours and accommodation options.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob said the open range zoo would enhance Perth Zoo's reputation for success with breeding threatened species.
"Perth Zoo is a part of regional breeding programs for Asian elephants, giraffes and rhinoceros so this open range zoo will offer Western Australia greater involvement in ensuring the survival of these species," he said.
Mr Jacob said that after the open range zoo plan was announced in November 2016, Perth Zoo was contacted by Western Australian not-for-profit group Free the Bears about the future potential of moving rescued bears from one of its South-East Asian sanctuaries to the open range zoo.
"This would mean a better life for the bears, a great visitor experience and showcase a strong Western Australian partnership between the group and the Zoo," the Minister said.
Mr Barnett said the next step was for a cross agency working group to continue to progress plans for the open range zoo.
- The Lower Chittering site is an hour's drive north-east of Perth
- $150,000 allocated to Perth Zoo to facilitate planning works for an open range zoo in the 2016-17 Mid-year Review
- Australia has four open range zoos - Werribee Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, Taronga Western Plains Zoo in New South Wales, and Monarto Zoo in South Australia
- For more information, visit http://www.news.wa.gov.au/openrangezoo
Premier and Tourism Minister's office - 6552 5000
Environment Minister's office - 6552 5800