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Animal attraction

The fact that visitors to Symbio Wildlife Park can get up close and personal with animals has helped make this Helensburgh tourist attraction an international hit. And it just keeps getting better.

Get up close and personal with a koala encounter. Photo courtesy Kevin Fallon/Symbio Wildlife Park

Get up close and personal with a koala encounter. Photo courtesy Kevin Fallon/Symbio Wildlife Park

It’s an exciting time for Symbio Wildlife Park. Helensburgh’s world-famous tourist destination is home to – take a big breath – cheetahs, Sumatran tigers, dingoes, koalas, crocodiles, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, red pandas, cassowaries, emus, lace monitors, echidnas, peacocks, marmoset and Tamarin monkeys, eagles, as well as a reptile house (packed with snakes), guinea pigs, wombats and many other animals.
But Symbio is more than a zoo; it’s also an educational powerhouse giving visitors up-close-and-personal wildlife experiences every day.
The award-winning animal-focused attraction is boosting the region in a massive way, saving animals and wowing visitors from around the globe. And there’s even more to come.
The park’s general manager Matt Radnidge reckons what sets Symbio apart from other zoos is that it offers visitors an immersive experience.
“We get consistent feedback about the interactive side of Symbio; how close you feel and how close you can get to a lot of the animals – really close, intimate encounters.”
One of the many exciting planned developments at Symbio, Matt reckons, is the park’s interactive educational farmyard, “a really good, hands-on project”. It will be ready for visitors in late spring / early summer.
“We always think that if we can’t do something well, then we won’t do it until we can … and now the time is right.
“It’s all part of the plan as we go, so as we grow we can activate all of these little plans along the way.”
Matt, who was named Illawarra Business Awards Young Business Executive of The Year in 2015, says the farmyard will be a multi-faceted educational experience. He says it’ll be “more than a petting zoo environment”.
“It’s going to move into permaculture, it’s going to show people how to grow their own produce, how to compost at home, how to have worm farms, how to keep chickens at home, keeping bees; like a whole sort of sustainable living example, but it’ll be a lot of fun as well.
“We’d also like to create a conservation foundation, so a not-for-profit arm of the business, which we can [use to] more effectively fund-raise for in situ animal conservation; animals in the wild, different programmes,
like that.”
Symbio is a huge hit on social media too, with almost 112,000 Facebook ‘likes’. In 2015, Imogen, a koala joey hand-raised by Symbio staff, captured hearts around the globe when a video starring the cuddly koala went viral.
Imogen is now happy, healthy and fully adjusted to life after a hectic start. “Imogen is independent now,” Matt says. “It was a great experience and something we hadn’t planned on because you don’t hand-raise an animal unless you need to.”
Matt says future Symbio attractions will include a nature trail and much more. “I love what I do and Symbio is such a dynamic place. Really enjoying what you do is the key.”