Get Away with Dre – Animal Sanctuaries Worth Paying a Visit

On this day (Tuesday 16th January) American zoologist and animal activist Dian Fossey was born in 1932. Widely known for her research on the African mountain gorilla, she lived alone in the mountains to observe them and they accepted. Her research on gorilla society enhanced our understanding on the species, most importantly her book Gorillas in the Mist; three articles in National Geographic; a documentary film about her; and her lectures, made an impact.

She was very popular (and unpopular) for her animal activism against poachers – so much so that she died trying to protect the mountain gorilla from poachers. She was found murdered in her research campsite. 

Her work lives on today via the Gorilla Fund.

In honour of her life and work, we thought we’d share some animal sanctuaries in Australia worth paying a visit.

How can you tell if a sanctuary is doing the right thing?

There’s things to look for to see if an animal sanctuary truly is an “animal sanctuary” looking to protect the animals and educate people coming to visit, and not just profiting from ticket sales.

  1. Are the animals living in a place similar to their environment in the wild?
  2. Habitats should offer multiple types of physical and mental stimulations
  3. Sanctuaries provide animals a home after being discarded or rescued from exploitative industries, laboratories, roadside zoos, circuses or private owners – they don’t trade, borrow or loan animals
  4. They don’t breed animals – unless it’s a threatened species which makes it a different type of sanctuary
  5. Essentially proceeds of ticket sales should go to the research and the protection of animals.


Feeding the emus. Woman feeds 2 emus holding a child.

Creator: Photogreff | Credit: Photogreff Copyright: Photogreff

The Australian Wildlife Sanctuary, Bargo

In the Macarthur region, between Campbelltown and the Southern Highlands, you can see Aussie icons like emus, wombats, snakes and lizards as well as Australian plants in a 90 hectare wildlife refuge. It’s only open for booked visits making them educational, and a perfect place to take the kids.

The sanctuary opened in 1962 by conservationist and educator Dr Thistle Stead, who’s husband David George Stead was a marine biologist and pioneer conservationist who was a key player in stopping the export of koala and wombat skins overseas.

In 1965 the Stead Foundation gifted the sanctuary and it’s buildings to the National Trust and since 2019 it’s been managed by the Australian Wildlife Sanctuary.


Lions and lioness' in a park. Lion standing on a ute.

Zambi Wildlife Foundation , Wallacia 

The Zambi Wildlife Retreat is basically a beautiful retirement sanctuary of animals from the circus and entertainment industry, zoo breeding programs, private ownerships, and rescued or injured animals. 

It was set up in 2012 and named after Zambi the first lion cub raised at the retreat after it was rejected by its mother. In 2020 Zambi Wildlife Retreat merged with the Kangaroo Protection Co-operative in Dural to create the Zambi Native Wildlife Sanctuary today.

The Retreat itself only open by appointments and it’s a non-for-profit so the ticket you buy goes to a good cause. It’s on a 50 acre property where you get to see and learn about exotic animals retired from the zoo, circus or entertainment industries, and rescued domestic, farm and native animals.

Separate to the retreat and not for the public, the Zambi Native Wildlife Sanctuary is located on 35 acres of natural bushland backing the Berowra Valley NP to rehabilitate and house injured native animals in a large and protected bushland ecosystem.  


Tasmanian Devil

In Tasmania, the Devils @ Cradle

If you’re going Tassie, stop at Devils @ Cradle which is an animal sanctuary solely based on one animal – the Tasmanian devil – having said that, it’s also home to the Spotted-tail and Eastern Quoll. Sadly, these 3 species are currently listed as either threatened or endangered in the wild and all occur locally in the Cradle Mountain area.

The sanctuary is located at the entrance of the world-heritage-listed Cradle Mountain National Park, and visitors can see the Tasmanian devil as they wander through the sanctuary, or you can join a personalised guided tour. 

It’s home to 80 – 100 animals across the 3 species within 2 industry recognised programs: The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, and the Tasmanian Quoll Conservation Program

It’s open day and night, so you can learn about the Tasmanian devil and the daily operations of a working conservation facility. As well as educating visitors about the tasmanian devil, the sanctuary also conducts a number of in-situ conservation initiatives with Cradle Mountain NP, collaborating with Stale and Local Government, U-TAS, Park and Wildlife Service, local operators and the community – so you know your ticket is contributing to the conservation of the species.   


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