Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith today opened a new interactive exhibit designed to nurture a love of nature and wildlife at Melbourne Zoo as part of its 150th celebrations.
"Engaging the interest of children in nature and wildlife is a significant step towards increasing the community's awareness of the importance of looking after the environment," Mr Smith said.
"The new Growing Wild exhibit will delight children aged from three to eight, prompting them to use their imaginations to learn about the animals on display through interactive play.
"Special child-level viewing areas will bring them face-to-face with the inquisitive Meerkats and children will be encouraged to 'Make like a Meerkat' by watching how these active and fascinating mammals behave and then mimicking those behaviours," Mr Smith said.
Other species on view will include Brush Turkeys and Aldabra Giant Tortoises, and in another area the children will be able to experience a Giant Tortoise-eye view of the world.
An innovative learning space will be used for visiting students during school term times and will also be available for visiting families on weekends and during school holidays.
Growing Wild is the companion exhibit to the recently-opened Keeper Kids experience next door, where children can find out what it's like to work at the Zoo. With the chance to wear mini-uniforms and use a range of props, the children get a sense of what keepers, veterinarians, researchers, and horticulturists do every day.
The launch of Growing Wild coincides with the Zoo's 150th year, celebrating its history as Australia's first zoo and also its future as a zoo-based conservation organisation. Through the 2012/13 State Budget, the Victorian Coalition Government committed $13.7 million to improve facilities at Zoos Victoria and to create new experiences such as Growing Wild.
The new area, displays land-based wildlife and in the future two additional new areas will be created that focus on wildlife living in trees and water habitats.
There has also been an increase in children visiting the Zoo since the introduction of the Coalition Government's implemented free entry for children aged 4-15 every weekend, on public holidays, and during school holidays. "With this exciting new exhibit, the Zoo is expanding its appeal to families, providing children with amazing adventures and is a wonderful way to celebrate 150 years of such a well-loved Melbourne icon," Mr Smith said.