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Conservation Breeding Programs



Australia Zoo Education Program group experiences zoo tours

Asian Small-clawed OttersAsian Small-clawed Otters

  1. Endangered south-east Asian species.
  2. Threatened by fur trade, habitat loss, pollution and hunting.
  3. We display this species and do three interpretive demonstrations daily to heighten people’s awareness of their plight and beauty.
  4. Our long-term aim is to breed this species and establish large colonies for conservation awareness.

Australian Green PythonsAustralian Green Pythons

  1. Highly isolated/restricted distribution and therefore highly susceptible to stochastic events.
  2. Most successful breeding program in the world for this form.

Black CockatoosBlack Cockatoos

  1. Educational species
  2. Red-tailed Black Cockatoos are one of the cockatoo groups which are threatened by habitat and nesting site destruction
  3. The Red-tailed Black Cockatoos prefers well timbered areas and uses large hollows for its nesting site. These nest hollows are re-used for successive breeding seasons.
  4. At Australia Zoo we have successfully bred Red-tailed Black Cockatoos.
  5. The information gained from our pair of Black Cockatoos and their breeding success will help in the future preservation of Black Cockatoo species.

Burmese PythonsBurmese Pythons

  1. Threatened wild population due to hunting for the skin and traditional medicine trade, habitat destruction and persecution by people who fear them.
  2. Successful breeding program allows Australia Zoo to supply all of Australia’s captive/educational animals.

Canopy Goanna

  1. Australia Zoo is the only establishment in the world to have ever housed the Canopy Goanna.  As the rarest species of goanna in existence it was vital to obtain knowledge of its behaviour and natural history.  Due to its extremely limited distribution it also remains under constant threat from stochastic events.
  2. In the late 1980s, with permits from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Australia Zoo collected three adults for a specific breed and release program to gather the vital information lacking.
  3. State of the art enclosures were constructed including full temperature control and access to the external elements (sun and rain). Australia Zoo was able to replicate the natural conditions of far north Queensland to allow the lizards to reproduce.  The information gathered will prove essential should this highly specialized goanna lose its current restricted habitat in the future.
  4. This information has also been written for publication in a scientific journal and in true Australia Zoo form all lizards involved in the program, adults and hatchlings, have been returned to the wild.  Best of all, we now hold the key to re-establishing populations should it ever be required.


  1. Locally extirpated in our area
  2. The Bush Stone Curlew has many other names such as Bush Thicknee, or Southern Stone Curlew.
  3. This species was once commonly found throughout Australia preferring open forest or woodland habitat. Today the Bush Stone Curlew is considered vulnerable. In parts of SE Qld the species is regarded as uncommon to rare.
  4. Factors affecting the status of this bird species include habitat loss, pesticides and poisons and introduced animal species including domestic cats, foxes and dogs.
  5. Bush Stone Curlews are predominantly a nocturnal species hunting and vocalizing of a night. They have a diet consisting of invertebrates (eg. Insects, worms) through to small vertebrates (eg. Mice, small snakes, birds). It is their distinctly mournful cry of a night that has also given them the Aussie slang names of 'Wailing Woman' and 'Banshee Bird'.
  6. At Australia Zoo we have a breeding pair and their offspring used currently as interpretive animals for our guests.

Death AddersDeath Adders

  1. Extirpated in local areas.
  2. Fire, habitat loss, highly threatened.
  3. One of the world's top ten most venomous snakes.
  4. Education of public to reduce persecution.


  1. Habitat loss, roads, fire and domestic animals.
  2. Breeding research program.


  1. Jabirus are Australia's only true stork.
  2. They are otherwise known as the Black-necked Stork and are commonly found around water bodies of tropical Australia.
  3. Jabirus belong to the genus Xernorhynchuss which means 'strange beak'. Their long, strong beak is their only means of vocalization and they use it to make varying clacking sounds. Their beak is also extremely powerful and is used as a spearing tool to catch prey and to prepare prey items to be swallowed whole.
  4. Prey for the species include aquatic vertebrates such as fish, eels, turtles and snakes and some small crustacea such as yabbies and crabs.
  5. Their flight is slow and cumbersome yet with powerful wing beats. Jabirus are usually seen to be soaring on thermals.

Queensland WomasQueensland Womas

  1. Critically endangered, if not already extinct, the eastern form of Woma has already succumbed to the devastation of its specific habitat.  Australia Zoo hopes to prevent the eastern most form of this snake following in the same footsteps.
  2. A Brigalow belt species, the south east Queensland form of Woma, is highly restricted in its natural range.  Existing in the most endangered scrub in Australia where past practices of chain pulling, over grazing and too frequent use of fire have decimated habitat and some localized populations have even become extinct.
  3. The breeding biology of this Woma group is a critical key in the future of its survival and Australia Zoo is working hard to solve the mystery of what natural triggers exist to prompt breeding behaviour. The zoo will then follow through with a release program onto secure, protected habitat to re-establish populations of this gentle and highly endangered group. To further enhance this program, a continuing education of land holders within this highly fragile region and restoration of already severely damaged areas is also on going.

Red KangaroosRed Kangaroos

  1. Suffering from intense hunting, dwarfism.
  2. The largest marsupial in the world.
  3. Educate property owners to co-exist with all macropods.
  4. Purchased over 40,000 acres of Red Kangaroo territory at the eastern extent of their range for our Joey rehabilitation and release program, study their effect on grazing land, halt intensive habitat destruction, and monitor their recovery from long term professional shooting.

Reticulated PythonsReticulated Pythons

  1. Longest and probably largest species in the world
  2. Known to have killed and consumed fully grown adult humans
  3. Threatened throughout south-east Asia because of habitat destruction, skin trade and illegal hunting
  4. Australia Zoo's highly successful breeding program is the best in the southern hemisphere. We supply all of Australia's captive/educational animals.

Rusty MonitorRusty Monitor

  1. The Rusty Monitor is a small species of goanna with a preference for inhabiting mangrove communities.  Until recently it was also one of Australia’s most poorly known reptile species.  Today their true status in the wild is still unknown. The combination of lack of knowledge and the clearance of mangrove habitat make the Rusty Monitor a cause for concern and a prime candidate for one of Australia Zoo's conservation programs.
  2. With permits from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Australia Zoo collected a small number of Rusty Monitors from the wild to enable the collation of previously unknown data that could assist in any future need to restock wild populations.
  3. No expense was spared in building of display enclosures that replicated the natural environment of the lizards.  This, in conjunction with the extensive knowledge already existing at the zoo through breeding other monitor species, made breeding Rusty Monitors a breeze.  In the first breeding season a world first took place when all females double clutched and 16 lizards were hatched.
  4. With experience gained, the second breeding had even greater success, one female triple clutching and a total of 45 hatchlings being produced.  At this stage the first years hatchlings were sub adults with valuable information on their behaviour, growth and development being gained.  This new information has now been collated and a paper prepared for publication in a scientific journal.
  5. The adults and offspring are to be returned to the point of capture to boost currently depleted numbers due to an over collection of the population in the 1970's for the pet trade. Zoo staff also regularly check on wild populations and have made many valued observations of wild Rusty Monitors.  This will be ongoing and the zoo's commitment to this species continued survival will be never ending.

Saltwater (Estuarine) CrocodilesSaltwater (Estuarine) Crocodiles

  1. Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus prosus) protected in 1972 in Queensland after being classified an endangered species.
  2. Very few large crocodiles remain in Northern Queensland.
  3. In the early 1980's Bob and Steve Irwin worried about the plight of the Saltwater Crocodile joined the east coast Crocodile management program to save rogue or problem crocodiles from being shot dead.
  4. In Queensland crocodiles still classified as vulnerable species.
  5. Steve and Bob rescued hundreds of crocodiles and relocated them to the wild or to Australia Zoo's crocodile environmental park during the 1980's.
  6. Australia Zoo's rescue efforts continued strongly in the 1990's with new methods being trialed such as behaviour modification trialed on large male crocodiles with great success.
  7. In the new millennium Australia Zoo's crocodile rescue unit headed up by Steve Irwin and Wes Mannion started to go international. 'Where ever crocodiles needed help Australia Zoo would go'. Rescue's were carried out in far away areas like East Timor, America, Mexico, Africa and presently Vanuatu.
  8. The goals of Australia Zoo are for the world wide protection of Saltwater Crocodiles. Northern Australia has the last strong hold of the estuarine crocodile. They used to range from the bay of Bengal in India, all the way through South East Asia, Papua New Guinea, The Solomon Islands and as far east as Vanuatu, but they are endangered everywhere except Northern Australia.

Tasmanian DevilTasmanian Devil

  1. Largest Dasyurid, Island population. Susceptible to stochastic events (i.e. volcanoes, diseases, human influence etc).
  2. Ongoing conservation with Tasmanian Devils and Quolls includes assisting research projects in the field with Dr. Menna Jones, funding Devil fences and acquiring habitat.  Dr. Menna Jones is conducting research on Devil reproduction in southeast and northwest areas of Tasmania.
  3. Australia Zoo has purchased Devil-proof portable lambing pens for Nick Mooney (Tasmania Department of Environment).  Nick distributes the pens to protect ewes and lambs from Devils and to protect the Devils from being destroyed by graziers.
  4. Australia Zoo continues to research appropriate land for the protection of Devils, Quolls and other wildlife.
  5. Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophillus harrisi) have been extinct from the mainland for the past 600 years.  There is no concrete reason for them to be gone, but theories include the introduction of Dingoes and disease.
  6. Australia Zoo houses Tasmanian Devils as a part of a breeding and education program.  Funding is provided to Trowana Wildlife Park in Tasmania for breeding and research projects with Devils and Quolls.  The Tiger Quoll and Tasmanian Devil are the second largest and largest living carnivorous Marsupials; they are unique in the animal kingdom and deserve our protection.
  7. Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) already extinct.

Devils and Toads

Due to the isolated nature and climate of Tasmania, Tassie Devils never encounter Cane Toads in their native environment.  Housing them in situations outside their range then presents an additional challenge of securing enclosures from toads.
The toxic nature of Cane Toad venom does not require an entire toad to be consumed for ill effects to occur.  One bite/mouthing of a Cane Toad can lead to death in a Tasmanian Devil within 6-12 hours if not treated immediately.
The most obvious effect is on the nervous system as both the voluntary and involuntary systems are drastically affected.  Breathing is extremely laboured and severe convulsions set in quickly.  The heart rate is erratic, peaking at over 200 beats/min but may then suddenly drop to lethal lower levels in seconds.
Without supportive 24 hour care and constant monitoring no Devil would survive.  Even with intensive care, full recovery is a lengthy process.  Complete control over all limbs and ability to walk properly may not be regained for approx. 2-3 weeks despite all vital signs and eating regimes returning to normal at a much faster rate (approximately 1 week).
Overall the effects of this introduced species on wildlife are one of the most physically dramatic.  In short, toad proof housing for Devils in areas where Cane Toads now occur in Australia is of paramount importance.
Education of local people to respect, admire and treasure their unique wildlife instead of fear and hate it.
Established breeding facility in Qld’s Great Dividing Range where Devils became extinct only 600 years ago. This facility is managed by my Dad, Bob Irwin.
Research projects include breeding, the extinction on mainland Australia, husbandry & handling.


  1. Very difficult to breed in captivity, long term plan to breed and release Australia's most endangered mammal - less than 100 left in the wild - the Northern Hairy-nose.
  2. We intend to establish a wild colony on our semi-arid conservation property.

Yakka SkinksYakka Skinks

  1. Information on the natural history of the Yakka Skink is extremely limited for both wild and captive populations.  The habitat in which this lizard ranges is also one of the most threatened in Australia.  Unfortunately this highly ill-fated combination presents a dim future for this unique and beautiful species of skink in the wild.
  2. Due to habitat loss the Yakka Skink, along with many other species inhabiting the Brigalow woodlands of arid Queensland, is incredibly threatened.  Australia Zoo is addressing this dismal situation with full force by attacking the problems head on.  The purchase of a large section of untouched Brigalow was the first step. Without habitat there can be no future.   Now, with secured habitat the Zoo is launching into the second phase of its conservation program for this species.
  3. The program currently in progress at Australia Zoo involves an information gathering process on the basic biology of this species as well as detailed records on its reproduction.  Once born juveniles will be grown and a head start program for release to secured habitat established.  In this program young lizards are grown in captivity so as they can be released at a larger size and thus greatly increase their chance of survival in the wild.
  4. The last phase of the Australia Zoo Brigalow Belt program includes the education of land holders within this highly fragile region and restoration of already severely damaged areas.