Ranger Red’s Zoo and Conservation Park is a boutique, hands-on zoo, in a lush setting on the banks of the Murray River at Pinjarra, says Bradley Holland, achieving his lifelong dream to own and operate a zoo.
It took three years of negotiation before the keys to Peel Zoo were handed to Bradley, aka “Red”, or “Ranger Red”.
So, last September, he launched the zoo’s new name and ticked-off the key item on his life’s bucket list.
Then the Covid pandemic struck and the reincarnated zoo went into premature lockdown. Amazingly, 300 people, mostly locals, stepped in to sponsor animals.
“These were individuals, not corporate sponsors. Some continue to sponsor animals,” says a smiling Red.
With a co-owner living in Sydney, Red steers the zoo, supported by three full-timers and one part-timer plus volunteers including veterinary and animal management students.
Red proudly points to the zoo’s family-friendly approach and hands-on experiences.
“Visitors can hand-feed our animals, hold a snake, pat a kangaroo, tickle a ferret,” he says.
A walk-through aviary holds 150 bird species. Tasmanian devils are also star attractions, part of a proposed breeding program with the new-born little devils to be released into Tassie’s wild.
“The conditions here near the river are ideal. The devils bred here won’t have the facial tumour disease that devastated their numbers in Tasmania,” says Red.
Koalas to come from interstate will also go into breeding programs.
Red’s menagerie embraces wombats, dingoes, exotic birds, reptiles, spotted quolls, possums and owls.
At night, visitors can also get close-and-personal with nocturnal animals in their element, every first and third Saturday of the month: brushtail and ringtail possums, squirrel gliders, spotted-tailed tiger quolls, tassie devils and owls.
The zoo – or part of it – also goes on the road to schools and childcare centres, shopping centres, retirement homes and aged facilities.
“I don’t see myself retiring – ever. I’ve always been ambitious and now, in my forties, I want to be here forever, to have the best boutique zoo in Australia,”Ranger Red
Dubbed “Zoo2U”, it provides interactive wildlife experiences with incredible, furry, feathered and scaly animals.
Out comes Frankie the tawny frogmouth, Terry the oblong turtle, Elmo the cannibalistic black-headed python, Pilgrim, the brushtail possum and Morgan, the red tail black cockatoo.
Kids who turn up are also given a free zoo pass.
The zoo, behind the Pinjarra Golf Club and an hour from Perth, has grown from 400 to 750 animals in 10 months, Red says he’ll look for additional land in Pinjarra where more animals can be kept and looked-after.
A qualified chef, former dramatic arts teacher for toddlers and occasional performer, Red often finds himself as the focus for selfie photos by visiting kids.
“When they see me, they ask me to be in their photos. For some of our school visits, kids who have heard of me ask if I will be coming.”
“I love it all. I don’t see myself retiring – ever. I’ve always been ambitious and now, in my forties, I want to be here forever, to have the best boutique zoo in Australia,” he says.
Ranger Red also applies his chef’s skills to barbecue tucker for nocturnal visitors. Night prices are $46 for adults, $24 for kids and $35 for valid concession card holders.
Prices for day trippers, who can bring a hamper and use barbecue facilities or buy food on site, are: adults, $23; kids, $12; seniors, $17.50; families of four, $60. Children must be accompanied by adults.
Visitors receive a park map showing enclosure numbers, animals’ common names and scientific names.