BIG CATS IN BALLARAT
A visit to the Ballarat Wildlife Park is far more than a ‘day out’ and meeting fascinating animals. It’s a nod to the amazing plans for the new million-dollar Global Conservation Precinct. A family owned and operated business, Ballarat Wildlife Park has continually grown and evolved over it’s 33 years of operation and at the heart of their future vision is the development of the Conservation Precinct. In the centre of the precinct is the Tiger Sanctuary, a home to two critically endangered Sumatran Tigers, Satu and Maneki. After taking some time to settle in to her new home before greeting the public, Maneki can now be seen daily. She will soon be joined by a male Sumatran tiger called Satu. It is hoped that if Maneki and Satu like each other, there may be cubs in the future that will help secure these amazing animals.
Sumatran Tigers (Panthera tigris sondaica) from the Indonesian island of Sumatra face many challenges to their survival, it is estimated that only between 500-600 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild and the actual number may be as low as 400.
The Sumatran Tigers calling Ballarat Wildlife Park home have come from Australia Zoo. Satu was born in captivity and Maneki was hand-raised at Australia Zoo. The tigers are part of a Global Species Management Plan and will be ambassadors for helping their wild cousins survive in the wild through education programs and promotion of conservation initiatives.
Leading the project is Operations Manager and Curator, Robbie Doyle. Robbie joined Ballarat Wildlife Park in early 2018 and brings with him 15 years’ experience of hand-raising and working alongside tigers at world-class facilities including Dreamworld’s Tiger Island and Australia Zoo’s Tiger Temple. When working at Dreamworld with the Clydesdale horses, Robbie was fascinated watching the big cat trainers work with the tigers, the start of his passion for these magnificent animals. Asked how he relates to the tigers, Robbie said; “its an absolute privilege to work with these animals. Each has their own personality with their different traits and while they appear quiet and gentle, we always have to remember that they are still wild animals” adding; “they are great ambassadors for tiger conservation and we work closely with the Tiger Protection and Conservation Unit in Sumatra.
Robbie and the Parker family have created the new conservation display to ensure a stress-free environment for its new inhabitants, as well as training staff to provide a positive quality of life that every animal living in captivity deserves. The tigers’ new home features swimming pools, climbing poles, shady areas, heated dens and are double the size of the standard requirement for a tiger enclosure. The enclosure also includes state-of-the-art security to ensure the tigers and the community are kept safe.
“This is a major coup for tourism in Ballarat, there’s not a lot of places where one can see these amazing creatures” Mr Doyle said.