Alistair Walsh | 9 November 2012

Paging Matt Damon or Benjamin Mee: Cairns zoo, along with its animals, up for sale

A zoo outside of Cairns has been listed for sale with the option of buying all the animals.

The vendor of Shambala Animal Kingdom, former Sydney lawyer Elaine Harrison, bought the 54-hectare zoo in March this year but was unable to turn a profit from the zoo, which has been mired with problems over its eight-year history.

The freehold property was bought for $1.09 million earlier this year.

It was opened in 2004 as the Mareeba Wild Animal Park after numerous problems surrounding its finance and construction.

Less than a month later the zoo was closed with $3 million of debt, and founder David Gill, was charged. A cheetah and a lemur had escaped from their enclosures and others had died.

Over the next two years the zoo remained in administration, over which time nine lions escaped from their cages.

It was then bought by former Glencorp director Udo Jattke, who invested $100,000 upgrading the facility and reopened the business as Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve. But the business continued to lose money with staff often waiting to be paid.

Harrison says the property would suit someone up for a challenge.

"For someone to come in with a good marketing budget and marketing savvy, this place could be second to none in Australasia," Harrison told News Limited.

"It is an amazing facility, it is a beautiful park with the most phenomenal animals. To get up close and personal with them is like nothing else in my life I will ever experience again.

"It has been the best and worst year of my life.

"My concern has always been for the animals."

Harrison is citing health and family issues for selling the property.

She says buyers will have the option of buying all the animals with the zoo in one line. These include 24 lions (the largest pride in Australia) and a variety of tigers, hippos, cheetahs, rhinos, gibbons, lemurs and monkeys.

If investors chose not to buy the animals Harrison says she has lined up spots in international breeding and conservation organisations.

If it is not sold as a zoo it will go to auction as two vacant parcels. There is a development application before Tablelands Regional Council for a 30-person luxury lodge and for 18 cabins.

The property is on two titles, one of 38.15 hectares and one of 15.01 hectares.

The zoo, in Koah, goes to auction on December 15. It is being sold by Callum Jones from McGrath Port Douglas. 

"The seller's overriding concern is for the parks resident animals. Should a buyer not be found immediately who shows the skills, desire and care to be able to continue the operations as they are now then the animals will be relocated to overseas reserves and the property will be sold as is where is as land and improvements," Jones says. 

Pictures on the listing show the animals with speech bubbles expressing their apparent desire to not be sent to other zoos.

p top listings

Take luxury city living to a new level