Saturday, April 9, 2011


When I was very young we would sometimes go to Palm Beach in Queensland for holidays. This was because I had a grand-uncle who lived there. My memories of these holidays include the long drive from Sydney, the sand modelling on the beach, the religious revival groups which seemed to always be camped there, melon and pineapple jam, promite, chicken pox (we all had it one summer) and blue bottle stings. However the most lasting memory is of going to the bird sanctuary at Currumbin. Here lorikeets would descend from the trees and land on your head and arms and feed from metal plates containing a mixture of bread and honey. It was maybe this more than anything else that gave me a life long love of birds.

The story of the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary begins in 1947 when beekeeper and flower grower Alex Griffiths began feeding the wild lorikeets to distract them from damaging his flower crop. At first this attracted local attention but soon grew into a popular tourist stop. In 1976 Alex made a gift of the sanctuary to the people of Queensland as a National Trust Property. In 1994 he also purchased a 4 ha rainforested property and donated it to the sanctuary. Alex Griffiths died in July 1998 but his extraordinary gift continues to flourish and attract visitors and tourists every year.

The sanctuary was originally known as the Currumbin Bird Sanctuary but as the park established a more diverse collection of reptiles and mammals, as well as birds, the name was changed to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in 1995 . It now houses one of the biggest collections of Australian wildlife species in the world. It continues to be run by the National Trust of Queensland on a non-profit basis. All revenue generated from the park goes back into its upkeep, to conservation research, to caring for sick and injured animals and to educating the public about Australian wildlife.

The park is set on 27 ha of land in the Queensland Gold Coast. It is surrounded by bushland. There are over 1400 mammals, reptiles and birds It is operated by 64 full-time and part-time staff. Other attraction include a miniature railway, which was added in 1964, the Tasmanian Devil enclosure, crocodile feeding and handling(a 5.3 metre croc), the snake and reptile show and the largest walk-through aviary in the southern hemisphere.

Eighteen months ago the park added an animal hospital. It is serviced by 4 vets and caters for over 4,000 animals a year. Recent patients at the hospital include a swan which was run over by a jet ski and a 3 metre long python. The hospital is expensive to run. For example the python cost the park $15,000 to look after. It has now laid 32 eggs.The hospital also caters for injured native animals and birds brought in from outside the park. A large proportion of the mammals at the park are nocturnal so the park also run a night program. The night program includes an Aussi barbeque.

The park has an added attraction, the Green Challenge. This is a high ropes and obstacle course. It provides a tough work out and is designed to build an individuals confidence. It includes a popular Tarzan swing.The course can be utilized by organizations and companies as a team building exercise for employees and staff members. For children there is Wild Island. Here children can experience what it is like for animals to survive in the wild. It has proven extremely popular with children.

Over 30,000 school students visit the sanctuary each year. Many Australian and overseas tourists make this a stop on their travels. One tourist site I looked at suggested this was a perfect start for a wildlife tour of Australia's top end. I know the impact this had on me when I was young. Given a chance to take young people to Movie World or Currumbin it is an easy choice.......