The remaining animals at Gunnedah’s iconic Waterways Wildlife Park will be moved to new homes after ongoing issues with non-compliance.
On Wednesday, the Small family, who operate the park, will farewell a number of beloved animals after a long battle to get its gates open again.
The park’s Native Animal Keeper Licence is set to expire on October 31 so the Smalls will no longer be able to keep the majority of the animals housed in the park.
The Smalls have been fighting to reopen the park since it was closed last year and said they now had "no choice” but to send their animals off to trusted zoos and sanctuaries after the DPI informed them that the park was yet to meet compliance requirements, which is part of the approval process for a public exhibitor licence.
In a statement to the NVI, a spokesperson for the DPI said the department was “not removing any animals from Waterways Wildlife Park”.
“Waterways Wildlife Park is currently unlicensed, and DPI is in communication with them to establish a new licence,” the spokesperson said.
“DPI is the body responsible for granting the permission to licenced zoos to purchase the Waterways animals, the sale of which is being undertaken by Waterways Wildlife Park.”
We’ve come to terms with what we have to do and it’s our choice where they go.- Jodi Small
The park’s family operator Jodi Small submitted a public exhibitor licence application in August and received a letter from the DPI dated September 4, which said the park had “not addressed the documented non-compliance issues as requested by the department”.
She said they would still fight to reopen but “the animals have to go for the moment”.
“We’ve come to terms with what we have to do and it’s our choice where they go,” Ms Small said.
“We’re running out of a time limit and this way they can be held in a nice place, and we know they’re going to be looked after and we had the choice. It’s a comfort that we got to choose.
“They didn’t get taken from us.
“It’s better for us to choose then someone to come in and say they have to go.”
The DPI’s letter stated issues including financial controls, policies and procedures and “the ability to employ and retained qualified employees and veterinary staff”.
Ms Small said the park needed to have four staff who hold a Certificate III in Captive Animals and a vet on site and they would love to hear from anyone who has the qualification and can come on board to help them.
Colin Small said they were allowed to keep the dingoes, emus, deer, reptiles and most of the native birds but they still hoped to get the rest of their animals back.
The park was established 38 years ago by Mr Small and his wife Nancy, and was popular with tourists and locals. Of particular interest were the koalas, which will be rehomed at Hunter Valley Zoo.
“It’s the end of an era [but] we’re not going to give up,” Mr Small said.
“The set-up is here, ready to start again.”
The Smalls said they were thankful to the Gunnedah community and Friends of Waterways for all of its support over the years.
The park was able to keep its animals because the National Parks and Wildlife Service granted a Native Animal Keeper Licence in November 2017, which will expire on October 31.
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