Wookiee the wombat at the Darling Downs Zoo. Photo Tara Croser
Wookiee the wombat at the Darling Downs Zoo. Photo Tara Croser

Farmers band together to save struggling iconic zoo

FARMERS and friends from throughout the Lockyer Valley are pooling their resources to support a business hit harder than most by the pandemic.

Like many businesses, the Darling Downs Zoo has been forced to close due to the emergency, but with more than 350 animals in their care, their running costs remain massive.

The zoo normally relies on admission fees and donations to keep going, and the owners are now asking for help from the community to keep the animals fed and cared for.

Grantham resident Linda Weston was inspired to do her part, and managed to gather a significant stockpile of supplies at the weekend.

"On Sunday we just made a couple of phone calls around to the farmers we know, and we ended up with about 50 bales of hay," she said.

"Redmonds Feedshed in town donated some pellets and stuff, and then Reck's farm donated some pumpkins, so we took that big load up to the zoo."

In addition to helping the many animals, Linda has had a more personal reason for wanting to support the zoo.

"When we had the Grantham floods, the Robinson family who run the zoo actually came down with, I think it was about a thousand dollars' worth of new toys, and donated them to the Grantham community to give to kids who lost their toys over Christmas," she said.

"What goes around comes around, you know? You don't want anything happening to those animals. They've got a pretty good breeding program up there, in conjunction with other zoos and stuff."

The Darling Downs Zoo takes in many rescued native animals, providing care and medical treatment to those that need it, and permanent homes for those animals unable to be returned to the wild.

The zoo is also involved in exotic animal conservation, taking parts in preservation programs for the cheetah, Sumatran tiger, addax, giraffe, zebra, primate species, and many more.

Along with fellow Grantham farmer Lenore Ditchmen, Linda has been working to set up collection points around town, and encourage more farmers and businesses to pitch in to help keep these many animals provided for.

"We've organised three different drop-off points around Gatton - at Liberty Field up on the hill, which belongs to O'Briens, at Redmonds Feedshed, and also out at the Big Orange on the highway."

Other donation points include Nutrien Ag Solutions in Toowoomba, Jenco Feeds & Seeds at Allora, Zooma Signs in Warwick, Binny Bowe Boutique at Clifton, and at the Darling Downs Zoo itself.

Linda is hoping the ongoing acts of generosity will encourage others to do the same.

"I rung a friend in Kingaroy, and she's been talking to a few of her friends, and they've made up nearly a ute-load of stuff to be picked up," she said.

"Just with a couple of phone calls we've been able to accumulate this amount of stuff, so hopefully over the next couple of weeks we might be able to accumulate some more until they can open again and get back on their feet."

Those who are looking to contribute can see the many items the zoo is looking for by visiting their Facebook Page.

There is also a GoFundMe.

Linda is encouraging people to get involved however they can.

"To see their faces the other day when we drove in, they were quite appreciative of it," Linda said.

"If we can at least help our side here, maybe other people might hear what's going on, maybe another zoo somewhere else might need a hand, or a circus."

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