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News Source: The Courier-Mail (9th October 2007)
by Glenis Green
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SICK and injured wildlife will soon have the equivalent of their own gold-star private hospital after yesterday's official start on construction of the world’s largest animal hospital at Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast.

Due for completion in March, the $5 million project by Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Worldwide will be of international significance in expanding surgical, rehabilitation, research and training capabilities for injured wildlife.

Yesterday's sod-turning ceremony realised a dream for late Crocodile Hunter and zoo owner Steve Irwin who wanted to build the facility to honour his mother, Lyn, who died in a traffic accident several years ago.

The existing wildlife hospital - in a small converted avocado packing shed - was opened in March, 2004, in Mrs Irwin’s memory.

Australia Zoo WWW board chairman and Irwin's best friend, Wes Mannion, said the ceremony was a milestone.

"This project is the realisation of Steve's dream and he provided us with stepping stones," he said.

"Steve had been very involved in the initial planning of the project and we are now committed to completing a new Australian Wildlife Hospital that will be on a scale that would make him proud."

He said the wildlife warrior team also wanted to achieve a world-first six-star green rating for the medical facility in keeping with its conservation ethos.

Hospital manager Gail Gipp said the hospital had a reputation for delivering cutting edge surgery and veterinary care to a wide range of species "from fixing the leg of a green tree frog, treating endangered loggerhead turtles, wiring the jaws of injured koalas through to repairing a pelican's beak".

Senior veterinarian Jon Hanger said the hospital team was also conducting ongoing research into wildlife diseases.

The Federal Government has contributed $2.5 million to the project with the rest being met by sponsors including the zoo and charity fundraising.

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