Mogo Zoo without Sally Padey?! At the end of this month that will be a reality. It’s something Sally herself is coming to terms with.
“The sound of the lions roaring, it just resonates right into your soul – I am going to miss that so much,”
Sally told ABC South East NSW.
Aside from being Sally’s home for the last thirty years, Mogo Zoo boasts the largest collection of primates in Australia, along with zebras, Southern White Rhinos, giraffes, meerkats, lions, tigers, red pandas and more.
At the end of November, just prior to the zoo’s 30th anniversary on Boxing Day, Sydney’s Featherdale Wildlife Park will take over.
“They will honour my legacy and do it proud,” Sally says in a voice full of emotion.
“How I am going to drive out the driveway that final time? I don’t know. I’ll never be happy to walk away, but I need a life as well and it’s too big for me now.”
Negotiations between the two organisations started over 12 months ago, and with Sally approaching her 62nd birthday it was time to pass on the “great responsibility” of looking after Australia’s largest collection of privately owned exotic animals.
“I feel that I can now hand the reins over and I feel that they will really do my zoo proud.”
In terms of her own future, Sally points to time with her family.
“I really didn’t see my daughter grow up, she was five when we started this, we’ve just been so busy, and I would love to watch my grandchildren grow up,” Sally says.
“I don’t know what I will do and that is the honest truth, I want to go for a drive. I have some very strong feelings on a lot of different things that I haven’t been in a position to speak about.”
Steve Sass, Head Keeper and Owner of On the Perch Bird Park at Tathra, says Mogo is in good hands.
“Featherdale has one of the largest collections of Australian animals in the world. It’s long been a favourite for me as a visitor ever since I was a young child,” he says.
“The team at Mogo Zoo is a very strong team of zookeepers who no doubt will continue to be supported by their new owners. I’m not sure of any specific plans for Mogo Zoo, but I’m sure if Sally had any doubts at about the new owners, she would not have proceeded.
“We wish Sally all the very best in the future.”
Local historian and author Kim Odgers wrote of Sally’s journey in his book ‘Our Town Our People’.
“In the late 1980s, Sally with her then husband, Bill, began an uncertain journey with little more than a vision and $4,000,” he writes.
“The constant early pressure took a toll on the marriage. Sally purchased Bill’s half share, assuming full financial and developmental responsibility.
“At one point Sally was forced to sell her humble sedan in Batemans Bay for just half its value in order to pay mounting bills. She hitchhiked back to Mogo
“With unwavering commitment over the next several decades, Sally produced a multi-million dollar world-class facility exhibiting over 200 animals, one quarter being rare and exotic.
“A particularly low point came in 2009. Sally, the passionate animal lover, lost a family member and one of her closest friends.
“Jamelia was a rejected lion cub for whom Sally had been personally caring for 9 years. A tawny African lioness, Jamelia one morning left her enclosure due to keeper error and began moving towards a public area. Sally knew the required procedure. Thinking with her head and not her heart, she instructed a marksman to put her down.
“Her decision, plus the unfair critical mail and phone calls that followed, made this the most difficult period of Sally’s long zoo involvement,” Kim writes.
Chad Staples, Director of Life Sciences for Featherdale Wildlife Park, says “It’s a real honour to steward the future of Mogo Zoo’s diverse collection of animals in addition to Featherdale. Sally will always be available to talk about the history of the zoo.”
Chad is currently in the Eurobodalla focused on familiarising himself with Mogo’s keeper rounds and learning everything about the collection.
Featherdale is said to be, Sydney’s most interactive wildlife experience and is a critical player in Australian wildlife conservation, and is home to the world’s most extensive collection of native Australian animals.
Tony Chiefari, General Manager of Featherdale Wildlife Park, says he is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.
“The animal collection at Mogo Zoo perfectly complements our Featherdale collection. We welcome the opportunity to drive visitation and economic growth to the Eurobodalla Shire further as we have done in Blacktown by capitalising on Mogo Zoo’s proximity to growth areas along the NSW South Coast and the ACT.”
“We will be expanding the strategies we implemented at Featherdale over recent years to Mogo Zoo, rolling out a program of dual annual passes, joint marketing and publicity campaigns for both local, regional and international markets.”