CROCODILE HUNTER EYES BIG GAME CITY
News Source: The Courier Mail, Tuesday 2nd November, 2004
By: Glenis Green
CROCODILE Hunter Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo is heading to Las Vegas.
Irwin and his Oregon-born wife Terri yesterday announced plans to build the new multimillion-dollar Zoo in the US gambling mecca as soon as business partners to the venture were secured.
Irwin let the news slip on the Larry King Live show last weekend while visiting the US to feature on a spectacular crocodile float in the legendary Macy’s Christmas parade in New York.
The plans were confirmed yesterday by Terri Irwin as she headed celebrations at their Australia Zoo at Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast to mark son Robert’s first birthday.
She said they were looking for partners for the venture and hoped work could start as soon as next year with the new Las Vegas Zoo opening in 2006.
Mrs Irwin also said that the family would divide their time between Australia and the US when the Zoo became a reality.
Australia Zoo marketing manager Peter Lang said Irwin had a huge US following and was respected internationally for his conservation and wildlife abilities. “He’s been approached by a lot of people asking him to do something in the US, and he sees great potential to perhaps do something special there,” he said.
Mr Lang said it was too early to say at this stage whether the Zoo would exactly mirror the Beerwah complex, which is undergoing a $40 million-plus expansion to take in world wildlife, or whether exhibits would be strictly Australian.
He said the Las Vegas Zoo concept would fit in with Irwin’s involvement with Florida’s alligator population, which was facing some of the same stresses faced by the Australian crocodile. “He (Irwin) has a big commitment – a promise – to be the best zoological destination in the world", Mr Lang said.
He said the US expansion could complement the Irwin’s efforts to buy up and conserve wildlife habitat which has already seen them purchase more than 80,000ha of habitat in Australia.
Australia Zoo, which was started by Irwin’s parents Bob and Lyn in the 1970s, has already expanded to 24ha and is expected to sprawl over more than 100ha in another five years. It now employs about 500 people.
While the Crocodile Hunter himself was winging his way back to Australia yesterday after making arrangements in Africa to secure four cheetah cubs for the Beerwah Zoo’s latest attraction, Mr Lang said his boss was excited about the new Las Vegas plans. “He (Irwin) said, ‘We’re got the brand name and the exposure – now we’re looking for partners,’” Mr Lang said.
He added that Irwin was also still in discussions for a planned Crocodile Hunter theme park for Brisbane, which he announced last year.