A LARGE area of land near Lower Chittering has been unveiled as the preferred location for the first open range zoo in WA.
Premier Colin Barnett made the announcement earlier this week at the site, which would allow safari animals such as zebras, giraffes, elephants and rhinos to roam around 700ha of land.
“Preliminary investigation was done at a number of sites but when I first came here two years ago, I thought you don’t have to look any further,” he said.
“This is a truly spectacular site next to the Avon Valley National Park that has all the features needed to make an open range zoo attractive to international visitors.
“The landscape and vistas are striking, exceeding those of other open range zoos in Australia and even globally.
“The undulating land and scattered rock outcrops create excellent opportunities for the viewing of animals.
“This site could become a world class attraction.”
Mr Barnett said the project would take five to 10 years to develop and cost an estimated $50 million to $100 million.
He listed the nearby Avon Link train line as possible transport for tourists but admitted major road upgrades would have to take place.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob was also at the announcement and stressed an open range zoo would not take away from Perth Zoo.
“If we look around Australia, there are already four open range zoos,” he said.
“This is part of a complementary strategy; South Perth would always continue to be that central, inner urban zoo.”
Mr Jacob said the government would focus on making the experience affordable for families, in line with Perth Zoo’s 50 per cent subsidy of each ticket for educational benefit.
“If you compare this site to other zoos around the world, it absolutely stacks up,” he said.
“Nestled within a National Park and yet only 67km from the current zoo, it’s a win for conservation tourism and a win for the fight to conserve wildlife.”
Swan Hills MLA Frank Alban said the zoo would boost tourism in the Swan Valley.
“This potential world class zoo is set to enhance the existing tourism region of the Swan Valley and Mundaring Hills,” he said.
“The topography of this area is outstanding and the greater Hills regions would benefit from this great initiative.”
The project would be led by Perth Zoo in collaboration with the Department of Parks and Wildlife.
No official costings or budget allocations have yet been made, but Mr Barnett said further detailed scoping work would begin immediately.