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Super Wildlife Park for Melbourne?

Super Wildlife Park for Melbourne?
April 17, 2008

The Victorian Government is considering an ambitious plan for an African 'safari' park in the grounds of the Werribee Open Range Zoo.

The $220 million plan for African Safari World is being proposed by Village Roadshow, the owner of Warner Village Theme Parks and the recent buyer of the Sydney Attractions Group.

The plans for Australia's first safari-themed adventure park would feature thrill rides as well as upgraded areas for the existing zoo's lions, rhinoceros, giraffes, zebras and other animals. The 40-hectare development would also feature live shows, food and beverage outlets and retail space.

Plans suggest that the park would become Victoria's top attraction, drawing 1.3 million visitors a year (the Werribee Open Range Zoo currently attracts between 250,000 and 300,000 people each year) and boosting the state's economy by $864 million over 10 years. In addition, the building of African Safari World would create 6,700 new jobs while, when operational, the park would employ 500 workers.

Village would aim to replicate Busch Gardens Africa and Disney's Animal Kingdom in the USA, while drawing on their experience in managing wildlife exhibits alongside amusement rides at SeaWorld on the Gold Coast.

John Harnden, Village Roadshow International's Chief Executive Theme Parks John Harnden stated that the new attraction "is about giving all of those millions of existing tourists even more to do in Victoria, and to stay longer and spend more money."

However, Andrew Fairley, Chairman of current operator Zoos Victoria, has claimed that the plan "could seriously compromise" the welfare of the animals, stating, "in terms of the stewardship of our animals, the responsibility for looking after them, that's what Zoos Victoria does best."

While referring to the park as "a fantastic proposal", Victorian Tourism Minister Tim Holding stated "there is obvious tourism appeal, but government and the community would need to be assured about the on-going proper supervision of the animals under such a proposal."

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