November 2005

It's a roar deal

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It's a roar deal

The Sunday Mail, 20 November 2005

It's a roar deal
News source: The Sunday Mail, 20 November 2005
By Damien Stannard

CROC Hunter Steve Irwin has emerged as a possible saviour for a collection of exotic zoo animals left stranded in far north Queensland .

The failed Mareeba Wild Animal Park closed last year with debts of almost $3 million and has been on the market for 18 months while its collection of lions, cheetahs, monkeys and hippos wait for a new home.

Liquidator KPMG had hoped the business would be sold as a whole but last month conceded the collection of animals and the equipment would be marketed separately. KPMG spokesman Gerry Mier confirmed Mr Irwin was among a group of potential suitors.

“We've been in touch with everybody,” he told The Sunday Mail.

Mr Irwin is overseas and unavailable for comment. But a spokesman for him said Australia Zoo had offered a home for the animals on the Sunshine Coast should a buyer fail to emerge.

“If it closed and the animals were left stranded, we would try to help out,” Mr Irwin's manager John Stainton said.

Mareeba Wild Animal Park 's gates were open for less than five months when it closed under the weight of crippling debts.

Its British owner David Gill fled Australia shortly after the park was accused of breaching permit conditions following a Department of Natural Resources raid.

In October last year Mr Gill was fined $10,000 in absentia for three breaches relating to the escape of a cheetah, the escape of a lemur and the unreported death of a lemur.

But despite the financial troubles surrounding the park, the animals are in peak condition.

The birth of two healthy lion cubs this month has stretched the pride to 15 while the park's resident white rhino Nekelly has added significant weight.

Yet wildlife experts fear the collection – one of the most diverse and valuable in Australasia – will be lost to north Queensland if a buyer is not found soon.

“Genetically it's of immense value,” consultant zoologist Tim Husband said of the assortment that features several species unrelated to animals elsewhere in Australia .

“Some of the larger zoos will be very keen to get their hands on the animals.”

Another option being considered is a plan to establish a tropical animal research and conservation centre.