April 05th, 2018
Warrawong Sanctuary has several new additions to the team including peregrine falcon Marvel and full time Warrawong2U coordinator Luke Flesher.

Marvel was brought down from Queensland to Warrawong after being rescued and Luke has taken her under his wing.

“Marvel was found injured in a field and would have died if she wasn't taken in,” Luke said.

“She had a broken wing and now her left wing sticks out which means she doesn't have the agility to be able to hunt.”

Luke was an ex pat from Adelaide working as a tour guide in a Queensland rainforest retreat when he heard about the momentum that Warrawong had been gaining and began looking at moving back home.

“I had an idea for a bird show and I was going to bring some raptors down from Queensland but they weren't quite ready for that yet,” he said.

“I felt a strong attraction to Adelaide and through a Facebook message they offered me a job.”

Luke said his background in marketing before pursuing a specialisation in birds of prey has helped him with work at Warrawong.

“Half of the role is generating business at the moment,” he said.

“We also have to come up with catchy names for all the animals, and somehow a lot of them have ended up with names from Harry Potter, so then we had the idea of a magical experience themed birthday party.”

The idea of the mobile sanctuary Warrawong2U is to take the animals out into the community and rekindle community connections to Warrawong.

Owner David Cobbold said Warrawong already is important to the area.

“We call it the people's sanctuary because it means so much to so many people – whether you had your school camp or your wedding here – everyone has a Warrawong story.”

The mobile sanctuary has a diverse group of animals according to David.

“We have a few dozen of what we call ambassador animals,” he said.

“They include everything from spiny leaf insects to a swamp wallaby to an albino carpet python; there's something for everyone.”

Luke said the program has been successful in reconnecting people to Warrawong with the
group presentations.

“It's starting to get really busy,” he said.

“It's growing so well that we're hiring casual presenters.

“Hearing people's stories is really amazing – the sanctuary is important to people.

“The program is part of a three stage business plan because at the moment we can't take any people into the sanctuary so we're taking the animals out, then we'll start up school camps again, then open to the public.”

The sanctuary has recently introduced a dozen Rufous bettongs, one of which already has a joey, and some Kangaroo Island kangaroos from Cleland.

Warrawong is also extremely fortunate to still have a population of platypus which are breeding.

David said the new animals are part of the rejuvenation of the property since he and his wife Narelle purchased it last year.

“We own Peel Zoo in WA and we were talking with our head keeper and vet who are from Adelaide and they mentioned they both had their school camps at Warrawong,” he said.

“We had a look at the ad online and flew over here for an inspection and fell in love.”

“We're doing everything from restocking and renovating to replenishing the waterways for the ecosystem.”

Luke said the transformation of the sanctuary is already noticeable.

“The sanctuary is starting to feel more alive,” he said.

“The animals are becoming more comfortable with people and we see them more.”

The sanctuary's history is important to David because of the work founder Dr John Wamsley did for conservation.

“It's an iconic property; it was the birthplace of the feral proof fence and revolutionised conservation in Australia.”

“It kept out introduced predators and created a place where native animals could flourish.

“It's an honour to have the rejuvenation in our hands.”

However the Warrawong owners do have new plans for the sanctuary with more of a commercial focus.

“We are of the opinion that conservation should be able to stand on its own two feet, it can't be about relying on grants and donations,” David said.

“It should be about jobs and careers.

“With this election and all the talk about jobs in South Australia, Warrawong is going to create jobs to prevent people moving interstate and to get people moving back, like we did with Luke.”

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