Today is the first birthday celebration of Tathra’s much loved southern cassowaries Gorge and Adelaide at On The Perch Bird Park. But the celebration was tinged with sadness, as owner Steve Sass also announced the name of the animal park these two dinosaur birds will be moving to when the park closes its doors this Friday.
Kyabram Fauna Park has been chosen by Steve and Linda Sass and their family as the new home for this pre-historic looking, much loved, brother and sister.
Mr Sass said it was a difficult decision and “we chose a home that is in a small regional community and where they can stay together, two important factors of many”.
“This Victorian park has been through some tough times with drought and other issues, so Gorge and Adelaide will be great assets. But we can also see the zoo is a really integral part of the community, so they are quite similar to us,” he said.
Kyabram Fauna Park near Echuca has been running since 1976 and is home to one of the largest collections of Australian animals, around 600.
Up at Kyabram everyone is pretty excited. “We can’t wait to welcome Gorge and Adelaide to their new home, and to share them with our region. Our community will be thrilled to receive this prehistoric looking dinosaur bird,” Mr Gordon said.
“It’s a rare opportunity to add such a unique native species. The southern cassowary is an incredible animal, a keystone species for far North Queensland, and critical to the regeneration of world heritage listed rainforests.
“We’re converting our brolga enclosure for them and they’ll be kept side by side. They’re both starting to mature and although they’re brother and sister, need to be managed separately.”
The first step in the relocation of these extraordinary creatures is to build large timber crates and get the birds used to entering the crates by feeding them inside. They are creatures of habit, so Steve estimates this process will take until around the third week of March.
When they’re comfortable in their crates, the keepers from Kyabram will come to On The Perch for a few days, then the precious cargo will be driven to their new home.
Steve’s daughter Holly Sass has been looking after this pair since they were baby chicks. She and her co-keeper Alex will also travel to Kyabram for a week or two, helping the young celebrities to settle in.
Bred at the Gorge Wildlife Park in South Australia, Mr Sass said: “These two characters arrived pretty much on the one year anniversary of the Tathra fires. It was a special time and the people of Tathra really adopted them, and have watched them grow. It’s bittersweet letting them go.”
Carmen Risby of Tathra Beachside, the cassowary couple’s main sponsor, was at the birthday party and announcement and remembers: “The little kids from Tanja school went on a zoo keeper program and every week they came and put together the enclosure, getting ready for when Gorge and Adelaide arrived. The leaf litter, the tomatoes in the trees, they talk about it all the time.
“From the very moment we heard that Steve Sass was going to be opening a bird park we decided to be his supporter.
“As the biggest supporter of the cassowaries, we have run the zoo program in our park, so kids from all over could come and meet the birds, meet a keeper and learn about all these animals.”
In other On the Perch news, Ms Sass and his family recently announced the Ray Alcock Memorial Avery in its entirety would be donated to Potaroo Palace.
“Ray Alcock was such a mentor in the Valley. He donated his Australian bush stone-curlews to us when we opened, which we’ve now bred from, and they are going to Potaroo Palace also.”
Young keeper Emma Andrew will also move to a position at Mogo Zoo. At 20, Ms Andrew is excited and nervous to be moving on to a full time position where she’ll be looking after the small carnivores and ungulates at the privately owned Mogo institution.
This means meerkats, otters and foxes, and also giraffes and zebras will be in her charge, a complete change from the birds at On The Perch. Mr Sass took her under his wing as a trainee and throughout her studies she has been encouraged by the Sass family.
“Steve and Linda have encouraged and supported me, and I admire their passion and they really convey that in their care for animals,” Ms Andrew said.
The decision was made to close the park during the recent bushfire emergency, when the impossibility of evacuating the 700 birds and animals was realised.
Ms Risby has found the closure of the park an emotional and worrying time.
“We don’t want them to close but we support their decision 100 per cent,” she said.
“And I can’t stress enough, if anyone hasn’t been yet you will completely miss out if you don’t come this week. I encourage everybody to come and support the park in it’s last week of operation.”
On the Perch Bird Park will be open daily from 10 am to 3 pm, and will close its doors at the end of this Friday, 14th February.
Individual cassowary encounters are now booked out and unavailable, however they can still be viewed. All other experiences and viewings are running as normal.