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Zoo transformation has been a decade-long journey

MEETING THE WILDLIFE: Darling Downs Zoo staff introduce visitors, including three-year-old Mia Boshoff, to a one-year-old crocodile.
MEETING THE WILDLIFE: Darling Downs Zoo staff introduce visitors, including three-year-old Mia Boshoff, to a one-year-old crocodile. Samantha Oneil

TRANSFORMING a 20.23-ha horse paddock with no power or water into a zoo catering for almost 100 species is no small feat.

Thrown into this mix was the battle for approval for new species, as well as building the appropriate enclosures while maintaining the existing exhibits.

This has been the journey for Steven and Stephanie Robinson over the past ten-and-a-half years.

This year has been full of excitement for the Darling Downs Zoo, with the introduction of several new species including bilbies, meerkats, emperor tamarins, mahogany gliders and capybaras.

Co-owner Stephanie Robinson said the newest residents, the capybaras, were settling in well.

Mr and Mrs Robinson personally drove about 4000km down to Adelaide Zoo and back to collect the animals about two weeks ago.

"It's a pretty big change for them, coming from a city zoo to the quiet, open space we have here," she said.

Mrs Robinson said the approval process for the meerkats, which arrived from Western Australia and New South Wales, had taken about 10 years.

FROM THE TOP:  Meerkats enjoy a treat at the Darling Downs Zoo.  Zebras are among the Darling Downs Zoo residents.  Darling Downs Zoo staff member Chloe with a Brazilian Tapir.  Mother and baby Rhesus Macaque put on a show for visitors to Darling Downs Zoo.
FROM THE TOP:  Meerkats enjoy a treat at the Darling Downs Zoo.  Zebras are among the Darling Downs Zoo residents.  Darling Downs Zoo staff member Chloe with a Brazilian Tapir.  Mother and baby Rhesus Macaque put on a show for visitors to Darling Downs Zoo.

"They were one of five species which the Queensland Zoological Society had been working with the Queensland Government for approval to have in Queensland zoos," she said.

"The capybaras were another of those species."

Mrs Robinson said the meerkats had settled into their enclosure well although it would be a work in progress to integrate the five animals.

The zoo has also been accepted into several national and international breeding programs.

"The emperor tamarins are part of the European breeding program and were imported from Ireland and the Channel Islands," she said.

"We have mahogany gliders which are part of an Australian breeding program, although we only have two girls at the moment," Mrs Robinson said.

"We've also had bilbies from Dreamworld, which are part of a breeding program to preserve the Queensland population.

"The bilbies have been very happy in their enclosure and had two baby girls this year.

"The breeding program will determine where they go down the track."

Mrs Robinson said the zoo was working towards the acquisition of maras, with the application process in progress.

"We are hoping to get them sometime next year," she said.

Mrs Robinson said the zoo was in the process of expanding further.

"We currently have 10 acres developed and we are working our way up the hill in the new year," she said.

The Darling Downs Zoo is located on the Gatton- Clifton Hwy at Pilton, about 30 minutes north of Warwick.

For more information phone 07 4696 4107.

Topics:  darling downs zoo journey warwick



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