Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary: the Gold Coast’s Favourite Attraction Turns 70
Celebrating the anniversary of the much-loved animal conservation park
2017 marks yet another decade of the Sanctuary’s enduring efforts to conserve native wildlife and nurture the local indigenous heritage and culture. 70 years of educating and entertaining families and tourists from all across the globe has shaped this regional treasure.
So naturally, the animal attraction is at the heart of Gold Coast history. You’d be hard pressed to find a local who hasn’t experienced the renowned wild rainbow lorikeet feeding.
But over the decades, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has, more importantly, served as a haven to a myriad of native Australian animals — big, small, flourishing and endangered.
Here’s how it all began:
The idea came to fruition as beekeeper and flower grower Dr Alex Griffiths sought out a way to protect his prized blooms. By regularly feeding the lorikeets, he was able to veer their attention away from what was once their nectar and floral quarters, towards something even more tantalising — bread soaked in honey and water.
In 1947, Griffiths opened up, what was then the Currumbin Bird Sanctuary, to the public as a small-scale lorikeet feeding display. In short order, this wonderful arena of birdlife garnered the attention of both locals and tourists, eventually becoming one of the Gold Coast’s best family attractions.
The famed model railway attraction was built in 1964, and by this time, the Sanctuary's diversity of animals had grown immensely.
The park was gifted to the National Trust of Australia (Queensland) in 1976, which turned the site into a not-for-profit social enterprise to directly facilitate the park’s rising numbers of native flora and fauna.
In 1989, the original Currumbin Wildlife Hospital was founded, and specialist veterinarians have been caring for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife ever since.
In 2010, the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital Foundation was initiated to support the critical demands of the hospital (with its 10,000+ animal admissions per year), which operates as a community service. The Foundation aims to raise $1 million annually to treat, rehabilitate and release sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife, and to fund much needed koala chlamydia research.
Now and then: a sanctuary’s evolution
So, where are we now?
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, officially renamed in 1995, is now a heritage-listed zoological garden set across 27 hectares of natural eucalyptus-rich bushland and rainforest. The park was deemed to be of great importance to the evolution of the state’s history, and was subsequently added to the Queensland Heritage Register in 2009.
Today, the Sanctuary is home to over a thousand rescued native mammals, reptiles, birdlife and amphibians. Strong support from locals and the emergence of ecotourism has allowed the Sanctuary to thrive since its inception.
The educational public park continues to provide vital breeding and conservation programs, and lorikeets still flock to the arena twice daily to be fed by the equally delighted visitors.
The Sanctuary will soon see new attractions in the works ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane
#TBT The original lorikeet arena. Taken in 1965 when Janine visited the sanctuary with her grandfather. #currumbinsanctuary
So, what was once a deterrent to stop cheeky local lorikeets from destroying Griffith’s flowers, is now a spectacular feeding arena where millions of locals and tourists have flocked to witness these stunning rainbow birds in flight.
Fast forward to 70 years on, and entry to the arena is still free and feeding trays are provided with a gold coin donation!
#TBT This awesome photo was taken on an annual family holiday to the Gold Coast about 50 years ago! Linda would have been about 5 years old. #currumbinsanctuary
Now, the Sanctuary is a caricature of all that is Australian, and continues to educate and entertain visitors like Linda with its unique close encounters with the native animals. Not only does its natural landscape make this iconic attraction so special, but also the park’s ingenuity in preserving Australia’s rich indigenous culture and history.
#TBT Check out this amazing throwback, who else remembers feeding our Lorikeets when they were kids? #currumbinsanctuary
At Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, family holiday fun has come a long way since this family’s picture was taken. As the park’s collection of animals began to grow, it inevitably become one of Queensland’s best value attractions for kids and adults alike.
Today, there are even more exciting interactive displays on the Sanctuary’s horizon, so be sure to watch this space.
#TBT The photographs were brought in by a wonderful member of the public who found them in storage. #currumbinsanctuary
And after 50 years on the tracks, the original railway and its restored steam train is still a popular means of navigating the park’s stunning natural surrounds.
Contemporary depictions of the Sanctuary’s time-honoured kangaroo paddock are reanimated with kangaroo selfies, reminding us of the scope of its heritage. But these days, visitors continue to top off their wild day out by cuddling up to a koala and leaving with the sweetest souvenir photos. Plenty has changed over the years, but the lorikeet feeding arena still stands as the Sanctuary’s favourite attraction.