There are not many businesses where you can wake up and play with meerkats and dingoes in the morning, but that opportunity awaits the next owner of Halls Gap Zoo.
The 21-hectare zoo, the largest regional zoo in Victoria, has hit the market with a price tag of $5.5 million.
After 12 years at the helm, owners Yvonne and Greg Culell are selling the property in order to spend more time with their grandchildren. Mr Culell said the zoo had given the couple a sense of purpose.
“We are two of the most incredibly blessed human beings, how many people get to be caretakers of the wonderful animals that we’ve been involved with?” he said.
“We’ve bred endangered species that have been released into the wild…We’re leaving the planet in a better state than in what it was in 12 years ago when we took over this place.”
The multi-award winning zoo is home to more than 160 species of mammals, reptiles and birds, including the recently acquired star attraction, a rhinoceros.
There are native animals such as wombats, wallabies and quolls, African animals like the giraffes, lemurs and leopards and Asian red pandas and spider monkeys.
The animals live across 10 enclosures, several of which are ‘open plains’, allowing visitors to come up close and feed predators and hold some of the reptiles.
The zoo participates in a number of regeneration projects and is involved in breeding programs connected to other Australian zoos.
Prior experience with zoos is not a prerequisite for the future owner as the team of trained staff take care of the animals.
Mr Culell said owning the zoo has been an amazing experience which had given the couple unique lifelong memories.
“A month ago I drove from Griffith with a giraffe in a trailer – that’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.
“We can go and play with meerkats everyday – the average person dreams of that. Through sheer hard work and sheer bloody mindedness we’ve been able to build something wonderful here.”
Sellng agent Michelle Matthews, of LSV Hotels, said there was opportunity for the new owners to expand the business.
“There is preliminary plans there to turn the old house into a really nice cafe dining al fresco and that would increase profits,” she said.
“The zoo’s sitting on 52 acres of land so they could certainly increase the animal stock. There’s also the opportunity to expand to do those camping or glamping experiences where people stay over night – Halls Gap and the Grampians are very big on the glamping.”
Ms Matthews said the business was ready for a larger corporate operator to come in and take it over.
“When Greg and Yvonne first took it over 12 years ago it was just a wildlife park, and they’ve since built it up to be a proper zoo and a really good range of animals, and the profit has increased as a result.”
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