It's official: a $40 million expansion of Monarto's zoo is going ahead.
Zoos SA this morning announced it would partner with the owner of caravan company Jayco, Gerry Ryan, to develop a luxury resort and glamping facilities under a new name: Monaro Safari Park.
By 2022 visitors will be able to sleep among African animals or stay in luxury hotel rooms, tour the park on open-sided vehicles, and enjoy new experiences including a walk through a 3.5-hectare lemur exhibit.
Zoos SA chief executive officer Elaine Bensted described Mr Ryan as a highly successful business leader with extensive experience in the tourism, hospitality and entertainment industries.
"(This) will position Monarto Safari Park as an international tourism drawcard," Ms Bensted said.
"The addition of accommodation and new experiences will also help us generate more funds to support our critical conservation work and continually improve our facilities at both of our sites (Monarto and Adelaide Zoo)."
"We're staying true to our core business, which is providing our visitors with incredible opportunities to connect with nature, learn about conservation and discover the benefits of getting off the beaten track."
Mr Ryan said the park would be "unsurpassable" by any other safari experience outside Africa.
Constuction will begin in 2020 and create 72 direct jobs, as well as about 150 down the supply chain.
Once operational, the new visitor centre and accommodation will require about 90 staff.
The development, known as Wild Africa, had been on the cards since 2010 and included in a 2015 master plan for the zoo site, and Ms Bensted had suggested an announcement was on its way when she unveiled plans for a new, $16.8 million visitor centre at the zoo in April.
Baby boom at former zoo
The announcement followed a string of animal births at Monarto, including a giraffe calf on Wednesday.
Keeper Matt Brewer said the calf, the third born to mum Kongo, was settling in well with the herd at the safari park's waterhole habitat.
Other giraffes licked her clean after she was born, and even the ostriches came to have a look.
"After a few wobbly attempts the little calf is already up on its feet and getting used to its long legs," Mr Brewer said only hours after the birth.
"We're keeping a close eye on it to ensure it feeds well.
"This precious new calf already has an important role to play in helping raise awareness for the species."
Giraffe numbers have fallen to around 70,000 in the wild due to habitat loss, poaching and civil unrest in the parts of Africa to which they are native.
Park staff have also been monitoring four young Tasmanian devils, who had their first visit to the vet this week.
The three girls and their brother were weighed and microchipped and had their teeth, paws and health checked.
Keeper Simon Dower said the six-month-old siblings had recently begun venturing out of their den, riding on mum Thumbelina's back.
Despite their age, each devil still weighs less than a kilogram - they were the size of a single grain of rice at birth.
The wild Tasmanian devil population has been devastated by a facial tumour disease in recent years, and Mr Dower said the park's breeding program was important to maintaining genetic diversity.
"We're proud to be a part of such a highly effective breeding program which has seen devils bred at Monarto successfully reintroduced into the wild," he said.
"We work by a saying that 'our quality of work is our animals' quality of life' and we do everything in our power to make sure the outcomes of our work are best for all animals, both in captivity and in the wild."
The safari park had already announced the birth of a baby chimpanzee and a zebra foal this month.
The story Monarto Safari Park: zoo changes name as $40 million expansion revealed first appeared on The Murray Valley Standard.