The history of Halls Gap Zoo and the zoo today.
Halls Gap Zoo, located in the foothills of the majestic Grampians National Park in western Victoria, started out as Wallaroo Wildlife Park and opened to the public on Boxing Day 1982. Recession in the 1990s and high interest rates of the time forced its closure for 18 months. New owners in 1998 renamed the Park to Halls Gap Wildlife Park and Zoo. Then on 1st December 2007 Greg and Yvonne Culell became the proud new owners of this privately owned and operated Wildlife Park. With a base to start from, the aim was (and still is) to develop it further from being a small Wildlife Park to a “Regional Zoo” and the decision was made to change the name to Halls Gap Zoo.
There are now over 160 species on display with iconic species such as giraffe, cheetah and rhinos along with some of the favourite natives such as kangaroos, wombats, devils and dingoes as well as an abundance of birds and reptiles.
Over the last 11 years there has been numerous (too many to count) improvements made, so many that visitors think that it’s a new zoo! Staff numbers have increased from the two owner operators and one part-time worker to now 20 employees.
During these past 11 years Halls Gap has suffered catastrophic floods in 2011 which closed the National Park for almost a year as well as 2 major bushfire events in 2012 and 2014, these natural disasters combined with other other challenges created some stresses to the process that we are only now recovering from.
Endangered Species Breeding Programs
The reason we are here, why we bought Halls Gap Zoo, is to be part of a team that works together to save endangered species. We are currently involved in many captive breeding programs as either a holding or a breeding facility. Our most successful breeding programs have been Bilbies, Brush-tailed Bettong, Quolls and Bush Stone-Curlews.
In 2012 we were asked to be a part of the Orange-bellied Parrot breeding program. We felt very privileged to be part of this program, being one of the first non-government institutions to be involved in this fight for survival. We were also involved in the quarantining of one of the groups of Tasmanian devils born and raised on Australia’s mainland to be released onto Maria Island in Tasmania. The large, heavily-forested, free-range enclosures we were able to provide give the devils space to rediscover their natural instincts and behaviours. The program we have most recently become involved in is the Southern White Rhinos.
Welfare has always been top priority at Halls Gap Zoo and we are constantly striving to come up with new methods to work with our animals which result in increased positive experiences for the individuals in our care.
One example of key welfare improvement in our zoo has been the implementation of new training plans which have been particularly beneficial for animal movements and veterinary procedures. Giraffes, Macaws and Wombats are among the many species we have been targeting, but our star “trainees” have definitely been the Red Pandas. We have had shy individuals who start off reluctant to even hand feed, but through the dedication of their keepers we now have two boys who are happy to recall, jump on the scales, hop in a transport crate, do public photo encounters and we are currently working towards injection desensitization.
We are extremely proud of turning a rundown site into Victoria’s highest ranked zoo/wildlife park/sanctuary for visitor satisfaction and experience on TripAdvisor as well as increasing business by over 1000% on a shoestring budget without Government funding.
Greg and Yvonne Culell