The arrival of Meerkats at the Ballarat Wildlife Park intrigued us, as Meerkats are desert dwellers and not normally found in a chilly Victorian city such as Ballarat. Curiosity was piqued further with the prospect of spending some time with the Park’s other new(ish) attractions, little penguins. Owned and operated by the Parker Family, visitors are encouraged to get up close and personal with a variety of animals, both native and imported including an 84-year-old giant tortoise, wombats, Tasmanian devils, reptiles and the most laid back kangaroos to be found anywhere. Australia’s iconic emblem freely roams the grounds, inviting visitors to reward them with a pat.
The meerkats and penguins are the newest attractions and keepers Beth Astles and Hanna Geeson are well qualified to care for both species. Beth worked with meerkats at the Hunter Valley Zoo where she was a curator, whilst Hanna, who is a qualified marine biologist, once spent six months on an island in Bass Strait studying fur seals, sea birds and little penguins. Beth and Hanna shared a fun fact: little penguins and meerkats are a similar size and weight!
It was a privilege to be invited to spend some time with the meerkats and to hand feed them some unnamed grub and to see their rather luxurious indoor space that is kept at a steady 22 degrees for their comfort. Equally exciting was spending time with the penguins who are an excitable bunch, running back and forth between the various nesting boxes and between our feet! It was very hard to leave.
The family owned and operated Ballarat Wildlife Park is a destination that has to be on everyone’s list. To learn more about what can be found at the Park and their opening hours, visit http://wildlifepark.com.au