Be­hav­ing like an­i­mals

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - BUSINESS - Shane Ni­chols

HART­LEY’S Crocodile Ad­ven­tures has be­come a whole lot big­ger thanks to the clo­sure of its as­so­ci­ated Cairns at­trac­tion, the Cairns Trop­i­cal Zoo and re­lo­ca­tion of many of its an­i­mals to the renowned croc park and farm at Wangetti.

The Free­mans, own­ers of Hart­ley’s, have spent $2.5 mil­lion of an ex­ten­sive makeover of the park, which in­cludes re­fur­bish­ment of ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties as well as build­ing new in­fra­struc­ture to house and dis­play what was a sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion of wildlife at the Trop­i­cal Zoo, which was sold last year and closed down.

The up­grad­ing of Hart­ley’s is in fact the cul­mi­na­tion of a longheld dream.

“It was al­ways the plan to in­te­grate the zoos,” said owner An­gela Free­man.

Ms Free­man says it has made Hart­ley’s the equal of any sim­i­lar at­trac­tion in the state and one of the most re­mark­able in the coun­try.

For ex­am­ple, its new rep­tile dis­play is one of the bet­ter ones in the na­tion, fea­tur­ing the coun­try’s largest python, a 6m whop­per.

From the Cairns zoo the Wangetti park in­her­ited first class col­lec­tions of birds of prey, rep­tiles (in­clud­ing al­li­ga­tors) and var­i­ous macrop­ods, and a Ko­modo dragon, among var­i­ous things.

Nearly ev­ery­thing at the park has been in­volved in the makeover, from build­ings, to new en­clo­sures, up­graded paths and walk­ways, a new am­phithe­atre with more shade and view­ing lines, new power gen­er­at­ing sys­tems (so­lar), and a new croc spot­ting boat with elec­tric en­gines.

“The whole idea was to do a com­plete re­fur­bish­ment,” Ms Free­man said. “We wanted to bring the in­fra­struc­ture com­pletely back up to new.

“We started with all the in­fra­struc­ture such as the ex­pan­sion of the res­tau­rant, in­creas­ing its ca­pac­ity, ba­si­cally dou­bling its sized with deck ex­pan­sion, cou­pled with a ma­jor up­grade back of house with a new build­ing be­hind the kitchens with dou­ble re­frig­er­a­tion and stor­age and a com­plete re­fit of the kitchen it­self.

“Even things like the toi­lets were stripped down to noth­ing and all re­built, all brand new.”

Run­ning a wildlife park means the main­te­nance and the rolling pro­gram of up­grades never ends.

Sus­tain­abil­ity those goals.

“On a good day we gen­er­ate over 50 per cent of our power,” said Ms Free­man. is one of

“The whole ob­jec­tive is di­rected to­wards sus­tain­abil­ity so as we progress we are more sus­tain­able; as we up­graded the park we con­vert things over.”

The croc farm is sig­nif­i­cantly up­graded with an all­weather path­way to im­prove dis­abled ac­cess.

In the process there have been on­go­ing up­grades to the crocodile farm as well, not just the tourism side of the busi­ness.

Hart­ley’s has been able to add to its se­lec­tion of tours, in­clud­ing pri­vate tours, thanks to its ex­panded col­lec­tion and fa­cil­i­ties.

“With the zoo we had a very sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion of birds of prey. So they weren’t lost to the area, we com­mis­sioned a new free flight aviary at Hart­ley’s for them, so peo­ple can now go face to face with owls, kites, kook­abur­ras and var­i­ous other birds of prey in there.

Hart­ley’s has in­tro­duced night tours for groups (by ar­range­ment) – “we set up a camp­fire in the Gond­wana area, so it’s a lovely ex­pe­ri­ence”.

A pri­vate en­counter with the (tame) Ko­modo dragon is com­ing soon, and vis­i­tors can also hang out with the al­li­ga­tors.

“They’re very tame, even the big ones,” as­sured Ms Free­man. “You can cud­dle them like a pet dog. They’re a to­tally dif­fer­ent per­sona to a salt­wa­ter crocodile.”

There’s more things to come, she prom­ises. “We haven’t fin­ished yet!”

Pic­tures: SHANE NI­CHOLS

A baby al­li­ga­tor: one of the new at­trac­tions at the up­graded Hart­ley’s

Burmese python

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