IT’S been a long time coming, but managers of the soon-to-be-open On The Perch bird “zoo” Steve and Linda Sass are flying high.
Anyone driving up Evans Hill between Kalaru and Tathra wouldn’t have been able to miss the colourful signage that promoted the business taking over the former Kangarutha Nursery site.
It was hoped On The Perch would be open mid-2015, but as these things don’t always run smoothly, Steve and Linda are now looking forward to showing off their incredible collection by the time the September school holidays roll around.
Far from being a pet store – as has been asked of the Sasses several times – On The Perch holds a zoo licence and will be focused on information, education and conservation.
There are currently four main enclosures, each with its own theme, and there are plans for more to come.
Mr Sass said there are over 300 birds representing 50-plus species in the zoo, with quite a few endangered species included.
Among the most stunning - and the colourful subject of On The Perch’s logo - is the Gouldian finch.
A habitat imitating an outback farmhouse, complete with corrugated iron walls and water tank, is home to a flock of Gouldian finches as well as several other species endemic to the Western Australian Kimberley region.
It takes pride of place at the entrance to On The Perch, where visitors can enjoy the on-site cafe and gift shop before venturing into the zoo proper.
Outside there are three themed enclosures - with more planned for future stages.
Visitors can walk through both the Asia and Inland Australia exhibits to be right among the birds flitting around the specially designed habitats.
There are even seats inside the aviaries for bird lovers to appreciate the wildlife at their own leisure.
The African-themed enclosure is viewed from the outside.
And there is plenty to view.
Regent parrots, cockatiels and budgies from the arid Australian outback; parrot finches and parakeets from Bali and India; and waxbills and lovebirds from Africa just to name a few.
There will also be a number of the elusive bush stone curlews once the zoo opens to the public - those of the freakishly large eyes and incredible dusk screaming.
Mr Sass said he plans to hold daily keeper talks to educate visitors about the various species, as well as potentially running night walks to give people the chance to spotlight particular birds and experience the curlews at their most active.
“We’re trying to represent the birds as best we can in enclosures imitating their natural habitat,” Mr Sass said.
“The feedback so far has all been positive.
“This has been a long time coming, but it’s now getting excitingly close.”
Education and conservation
STEVE and Linda Sass have been ecologists for many years and involved with birds and zoology programs since their teens.
On The Perch includes lots of birds from their own private aviaries, as well as donations from other zoos, including Symbio Wildlife Park.
No bird has been collected from the wild – they have all been bred in captivity and will continue to assist conservation and breeding programs.
“We are interested in environmental education and opening people’s eyes to what we have in this country,” Mr Sass said.
“There are more than 10,000 species of bird in the world.
“There are 800 or so in Australia, and many of those are found nowhere else.
“If people understand what they have, they are more likely to preserve it.”
Local business support for zoo
HOPING to be a local success story, On The Perch is already giving back to the local community.
Wild Ryes’ coffee will be served in the café - only the second reseller outside the Pambula-based bakery and coffee roaster.
“We feel quite privileged,” Mr Sass said.
During construction, many local contractors and tradespeople were employed, including Steeline Pambula, Stafford Hardware of Kalaru and Betta Home Living.
Meanwhile, Tura Beach Woolworths has come on board with fruit and vegetables for the birds at no charge.
Bega Cheese is donating some of its product for the birds’ menu as well!
“We probably use about 7kg of cheese a week, grated up into their meals,” Steve Sass said.
“In the wild they can eat whatever they want and find – so we have to have a variety of foods here for them to choose from.
“For example the bush stone curlew enjoys a meal of kangaroo mince with grated cheese, mashed boiled egg, mealworms and chicken crumbles!”