Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Celebrates 75th Anniversary
"Make every effort towards wildlife conservation and ensure that our children have the opportunity to see wildlife” - Alex Griffiths 1973
When was your first visit to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary?
It’s been 75 years since Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, then known as the Currumbin Bird Sanctuary, first opened to the public.
A Serendipitous Beginning
Alex Griffiths, a bee and flower keeper attracted local attention when he began feeding the lorikeets at his Currumbin home to keep them from feasting on the plants in his prized garden. In 1947, he decided to open a small-scale lorikeet feeding display to the public. He called it Currumbin Bird Sanctuary.
Soon, this colourful arena of bird life became a family favourite attraction for Gold Coast locals and visitors alike. Visitors would gather every weekend, waiting for Griffiths to fill pie tins with a mixture of bread, water and honey, so that they could feed the flocks of hungry birds.
In the early 1950s, as buildings sprang up across the Gold Coast during a post-World War II development boom, Griffiths acquired more land in Currumbin and began advocating for the preservation of local wildlife habitats. He wrote a letter to the editor of Queensland newspaper The Courier Mail in early 1956, protesting against a sand mining development that would endanger wild bird populations at Flat Rock Creek. The fauna on Griffiths’ land became a food source for native birds displaced by mining and development projects.
By the end of this year, Currumbin Bird Sanctuary had become so well-known, America’s National Geographic sent a photographer to snap pictures of Griffiths’ bird feeding phenomenon. Griffiths was already beginning his efforts to treat, rehabilitate and release local wildlife, caring for sick, injured and orphaned birds and other animals.
Building an Icon
In the 1960s, Griffiths was able to lease a further expanse of land on the banks of Flat Rock Creek. The iconic miniature railway was built in June 1964, along with a gift shop, which houses the Spirit of the Outback store today.
In 1972, Griffiths opened a new three-storey kiosk beside the Lorikeet Arena, which included a large mural on the main floor, created by celebrated Queensland-born artist Hugh Sawrey. You can still find this piece, which depicts Australian outback life, spread across an entire wall of our Sawrey Room.
Upholding the Legacy
In 1976, Currumbin Bird Sanctuary was gifted to the National Trust of Australia (Queensland). This turned the Sanctuary into a not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to ensure that our precious Natural World can be protected and preserved for generations to come. Of this milestone, Griffiths said, "I wanted to make sure that on my death the Sanctuary would continue its work as a haven for wildlife... As you can see, I had to ensure that these creatures always had a safe place to come, even after I am gone."
Further expansions continued at the Sanctuary through the 1980s and 90s, including the construction of new aviaries, the Koala Junction Kiosk, freshwater crocodile display and Tasmanian Devil enclosure.
Most notably, in 1989, the original Currumbin Wildlife Hospital was established, allowing specialist veterinarians and vet nurses to care for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife ever since.
Currumbin Bird Sanctuary was renamed to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in 1995.
Alex Griffiths passed away in July 1998.
In 2000, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary invested in a large new development and opened Wild Island. It has undergone a recent facelift, now offering Wild Island Adventure Splash Zone – a fun water playground for kids.
Becoming an Eco-Tourism Leader
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register in September 2009.
Now, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a not-for-profit organisation offering a world-class eco-tourism experience, relying on visitation and donations to reinvest back into the Sanctuary’s wildlife education and conservation work.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary offers visitors 27 hectares of lush bushland and sub-tropical rainforest, where they can get up close with Native and exotic wildlife, learning more about how we can protect our natural world for future generations.
Over the years, the Sanctuary has continued to build on Alex Griffiths’ legacy, expanding its conservation projects to include not only native wildlife, but exotic animals as well. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary now participates in 15 conservation projects and runs Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, which has become one of the busiest wildlife hospitals in the world, admitting over 14,000 wildlife animals, including over 500 Koalas.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary opened Lost Valley in 2017, bringing guests up close to some of the world’s endangered exotic animals in one of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest walk-through aviaries.
In 2020 Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary was the first institution in the world to house and breed a critically endangered Kroombit Tinkerfrog. A new Frog Lab is currently under construction to help with the conservation project, which will hopefully see a number of Kroombit Tinkerfrogs released back into the wild in coming years.
With the help of a Federal Government grant, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary opened a large new outdoor experience in 2021. Extinction Trail is a thrilling display of lifelike dinosaurs and megafauna, which includes fossil digs and skeletons. By sharing the plight of the massive creates who walked the earth millions of years ago, Extinction Trail highlights the current threat of extinction faced by today’s animals and emphasises the important role humans play in preventing another extinction-level event.
Repturnal Den also opened in 2021, offering a walk-through experience where visitors can get up close to elusive nocturnal mammals and reptiles, and learn more about the mysterious lives they lead.
In 2021, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary won the prestigious Queensland Major Tourist Attraction at the Queensland Tourism Industry Awards. This monumental achievement was welcome recognition of the passionate work of staff and volunteers throughout the years to build upon Alex Griffiths’ vision and create a sustainable eco-tourism experience.
Be Immersed in Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary’s History Throughout 2022
We are grateful to our community for your support over the years. It has enabled us to continue offering immersive education, unforgettable wildlife experiences and exciting adventures in our natural environment.
You are part of our history, and this year, we want to share our stories with you. Visit Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to be immersed in our evolution over the decades.
Enjoy a gallery of lorikeet feeding pictures taken over the years; these can be seen free of charge in the Lorikeet Arena. Experience daily Lorikeet Feeding, the display that first made Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary famous, for a gold coin donation, or watch for free!
Inside our gates, discover a video history of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in the Sir Walter Campbell Centre Theatre, located next to the Koala Habitat. Walk through an exhibit of artefacts from the Sanctuary’s 75 years in the Theatre’s foyer.
Join us for our Gala Dinner on Friday the 19th of August 2022 at the Star.
We thank you for your support over the years and look forward to celebrating 75 years as the Gold Coast’s number one wildlife experience.