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Rebranded Victorian wildlife attraction now operational after COVID-19 delays

Rebranded Victorian wildlife attraction now operational after COVID-19 delays
January 8, 2021

The former Cudgee Wildlife Park in Victoria has reopened with new owners and branding.

Located 20 kilometres north east of Warrnambool, new proprietor Zara Altmann has breathed life into the wildlife sanctuary her parents once owned, re-opening the site as Warrnambool Wildlife Encounters.

Speaking to Warrnambool newspaper The Standard, Altmann explained "I grew up with animals and doing all this sort of stuff.

"When my parents decided to shut the park I was too young to take it over but it was something I was always passionate about and wanted to get back into.

"A couple of years ago myself and my partner were talking and we decided to give it a shot."

Altmann and her partner Joshua Hurley opened Warrnambool Wildlife Encounters in mid-November after their initial plans were delayed by COVID-19 closures.

Reflecting on this, she explained “we were due to open in March and then with all the restrictions we had to put it off until the end of the last lockdown.

"The response has been really strong and we really hit the ground running, we didn't expect to be so busy straight away.

"Our clientele has been primarily Warrnambool people, and there's a bit of tourism coming through. We want to reach out to that audience in the future as well as schools and kindergartens."

Currently the pair manage the attraction on their own with Altmann running the two-hour hands-on tours and Hurley doing the behind-the-scenes work.

The fully-guided tours include up close and personal experiences with the Australian wildlife who call the site home and plenty of information about the animals and conservation is shared.

Altmann told The Standard “when a group come in, we start off in the display area where we get some animals out for a pat, a hold and to learn about conservation for the species.

"Then we take the group around the park for a pat of the koalas, wombats and dingoes."

"All of our animals are sustainably sourced from wildlife parks and zoos and we breed a couple on site.

"We also have a couple of reptiles and the first encounter we give people is with one of our snakes. We have lovely reptiles who are very friendly."

Having grown up with the wildlife park, Altmann knows a lot about the animals she works with and spends her spare time researching to further educate herself.

Advising that the couple are just getting started with their wildlife adventure and are hoping to continue expanding the park to the tourist market, Altmann added "I definitely don't claim to know everything but I've spent my whole life raising animals and I do tonnes of research and learn all the way along.

"It is a really unique experience, there's not many places you get to have the hands-on experiences with the animals included in the price.

"We're really proud of what we're creating out here."

Images: Zara Altmann feeding animals at Warrnambool Wildlife Encounters (top) and the attraction's koalas (below).

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