Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published August 15th 2016
Get Up Close and Personal With Our Iconic Aussie Wildlife
The Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park, set on 10 hectares of bushland, is a great place to see Australian animals in close quarters. The park in Pearcedale on the Mornington Peninsula with over 70 species of native animals and birds has plenty of activities to keep everyone happy. Bring the kids, mum and dad, and grandma and grandpa; no-one will be disappointed.
This wombat was serious about digging (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
1. Take a Self-Guided Tour of the Animal Enclosures
The route around the park's exhibits and through Wallaby Walk is a circuit. You will receive a map with a key to the exhibits when you get your tickets at the Visitor Centre. There is an opportunity to make a game of it for the children; can they guess the next animal from their silhouettes on the map?
A surly Tasmanian devil coaxed from his den with tasty morsels during the keeper talk (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Here you will be amazed at the variety of Australian birds some of which are in a walk-through aviary. See the wombats and the cavernous holes they dig. Watch the lizards darting across rocks and the turtles swimming in ponds. Watch the dingos prancing about, the koalas having a sleep. Can you see the shy barn owls in their box, hear the "woof woof" call of the barking owl and see the emu strutting proudly.
Past the wallabies and kangaroos in the back aviaries tawny frogmouths blend with the tree trunks. Can you spot them? Can you find the satin bower bird with the emerald blue eyes or the long legged bush stone curlew? In the centre of the park wild water birds visit the wetlands and cape barren geese roam freely.
A goanna or perentie lizard- quite a large chap (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
In Wallaby Walk at the rear of the park, a path winds through bushland where kangaroos and wallabies roam. For just a couple of dollars, you can buy a bag of feed at the Visitor Centre and hand feed these wonderful Australian icons. I was fortunate to feed a small wallaby, his soft tongue wet on my hand as he lapped at the food pellets; a truly magical moment. Many of the animals are shy and may be hesitant to come to you, so be patient. It might also be easier to attract their attention earlier in the day as feeding them is so popular. I expect their appetites are sated as the afternoon marches on.
The kangaroos are very friendly and will eat from your hand (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Keeper Talks are scheduled throughout the day. You will be given a timetable when you get your tickets. It is well worth going to these, as the keepers are adept at getting the animals attention and not only will you learn more about these wonderful creatures, you will get a better look at them. This is particularly so of the Tasmanian Devils, who like to hide during daylight but are coaxed out for the keeper talk with some tasty titbits (which actually look rather disgusting). Keeper talks are run for the dingos, koalas, pythons, Tasmanian devils, wombats and also for corella training. Corellas are cheeky, playful parrots.
The Koala Keeper Talk (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Complementing the keeper talks is the daily wildlife conservation show. On the day we attended, we saw the endangered spot-tail quoll, a peanut butter loving dingo, and a tawny frogmouth swallowing a mouse whole. A barn owl and a barking owl put on a flight show. All the while the keepers run a narrative about the animals and the conservation work at the park.
An owl takes flight during the daily show (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Seeing the animals is a whole heap of fun, but nothing beats holding them. The park offers a number of encounters. There is an additional fee for the encounters which can be booked when you get your entry tickets. The Koala Encounter allows you into the enclosure to pat the koala during the keeper talk. The Barn Owl Encounter allows you to don a leather glove and have the owl perch on your hand. In the Dingo Adventure, you are able to enter the dingo enclosure to play with them. The Dingo Walk allows you to accompany a keeper and take the dingos for an on-leash walk about the park. The Python Encounter allows you to hold a python and the Behind the Scenes Tour allows a small group of up to five people to spend an hour with the keepers as they feed the animals and prepare enrichment treats.
Get acquainted with a python if you dare (Photo copyright Roger Marien)
The ultimate encounter, however, must surely be Keeper for a Day. This is an opportunity to accompany the keepers as they go about the daily chores of running the park and to assist them. It is a wonderful opportunity to interact with the animals and perhaps spark a career interest.
7. See Endangered Animals
Moonlit Sanctuary is a conservation park which runs breeding programs and conservation education. It describes itself as "an ark for endangered creatures." The Sanctuary has successfully bred and reintroduced orange-bellied parrots, bush stone curlews and Julia Creek dunnarts to the wild. You will be able to see endangered species when you visit.
The very rare orange-bellied parrot being bred at the sanctuary for conservation (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
If you would like to contribute to the conservation efforts, you can sponsor an animal. Three sponsorship packages are available for a wide variety of animals ranging from those of least concern to the Southern Bettong which is already extinct in the wild on the Australian mainland.
9. Take a Night Tour
Moonlit Sanctuary lives up to its name with its guided lantern-lit tour. Your guide will tell you stories about the animals you encounter and will happily answer all your questions. All Australian mammals are nocturnal, so the evening tour gives the opportunity to see the animals when they are more active. Be on the lookout for feather tail gliders, yellow-bellied gliders, quolls, Tasmanian devils, pademelons and bettongs. Listen out for the barking owls.
A dingo struts his stuff for peanut butter rewards in the daily show (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The park has on onsite kiosk and coffee shop at the Visitor Centre. Here you can purchase hot and cold drinks, ice-creams, sandwiches and rolls, pies and pasties and other light refreshments. Indoor tables and chairs look out towards the park and wetlands through large picture windows.
11. Have a Picnic
Outside near the kiosk there are a few picnic tables and seats where you can enjoy BYO food and drinks. This is an open and generous area with room for children to run about and have some fun.
A wetlands in the centre of the Sanctuary (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Moonlit Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Park is at 550 Tyabb-Tooradin Rd, Pearcedale VIC 3912. Find directions here. They are open 10am to 5pm daily, except Christmas Day. Check the times for keeper talks and animal encounters on arrival. Costs (August 2016) are Adults $20, Concession $18, Pensioners $16, Children $10, and Families $53. Keeper talks are included in the entry fee but animal encounters are extra. There are public toilets on site. The Sanctuary can be contacted via their website or by telephoning (03) 5978 7935.