Wildlife Habitat with Sybella Salter
How many years have you been in business?
“the Wildlife Habitat has been in operation for 30 years this year and was originally owned by John Morris – one of the most influential people in Port Douglas. It’s now owned and operated by the Woodward family CaPTA Group.”
What was your reason for moving to Port Douglas?
Originally from Victoria, Sybella has worked interstate and overseas, returning to Australia in 1996. The plan was to stay for 12 months, but 22 years later she is still here! “I had friends in Port Douglas that I had worked with at Ayers Rock who said there was plenty of work in town. So I applied for a few jobs that were of interest and jumped on a Greyhound bus from Victoria.”
Sybella has worked in various hospitality businesses in Port before finding her true passion at the Wildlife Habitat.
What makes your business special / stand out?
“Visitors can walk amongst the animals and feel like part of a wildlife experience. The team have such a passion for the park, from reception to the wildlife carers – everyone here works together with the best interests of the animals at heart, and there’s such a wonderful community spirit amongst the employees. The Woodward boys and Pip, are constantly innovating and improving Wildlife Habitat with some fantastic future plans to expand and enhance the visitor experience.”
I asked Sybella if all of the animals have names, and she said “oh yes! All of the staff have a particular favourite, and every creature has a name – some derived from their origin or colouring, or some from a particular habit observed by the wildlife team.” Sybella’s favourite is Ella the Eastern Grey Kangaroo who was abandoned by her mum and hand raised by the habitat team – leading to the implementation of the “Adopt an Animal” program.
There is ‘Brittney Spears’ – species of bird whose method of catching fish is to ‘spear’ them with her beak! Then there is the infamous ‘Elvis’ the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo who featured in the 1988 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. As we were conducting the interview, we were interrupted by Neddy – the naughtiest cockatoo who gained his reputation by petty theft and having the odd nibble on personal property! My favourite name of all though would have to be ‘Peckerhead’ a Chestnut Rail (bird) – named after his habit of pecking at the feet of the wildlife carers!
The Wildlife Habitat has not only an amazing array of creatures in beautiful natural ecosystems, they also run vitally important breeding programs essential to the continuing population of many species, and the newly revamped and renamed care centre – TARC – which stands for Tropical Animal Rehab Centre. The centre not only cares for the animals of the Wildlife Habitat, but also treats injured native animals often brought in by members of the public.
The Volunteer programs are also gaining in popularity and are often booked almost a year in advance, which is a testament to the passion and integrity of the management of the program itself.
What’s your favourite thing about living / working in Port Douglas?
“Having worked and lived in the area for so long, I’ve been fortunate to meet so many wonderful people and generate an amazing network of friends and associates. The community spirit and willingness to help one another is a vital part of living and working in Port Douglas. If there’s a particular area of expertise that you need there is always someone to turn to for help or guidance.”
Sybella has been a long-time supporter for the Carnivale and Beach Day and is a strong advocate for the wonderful community support the event receives. The amount of work that goes behind the scenes often gets forgotten the event is a huge drawcard for visitors and investors into the area.
What would you like to see more / less of or improvements to Port Douglas in general?
“I would love to see better parking for the Sunday markets in peak season! It would be great if we could somehow arrange a system of perhaps a gold coin donation for parking at the sports arena and a decent walkway from there to the market area.”
Sybella also is keen to see the entertainment precinct to be given a much needed boost – more options and better communication with the accommodation houses that Macrossan Street is where the action is and noise is a factor. She says, “years ago there were so more many places to go and not have to worry about how loud the music was”.
Beach clean-ups after bad weather is another issue that could be addressed. Our beaches are a key drawcard for many visitors and for them to be covered in seaweed and debris after bad weather can be off putting and lead to negative publicity in the region.
In one sentence how would you summarise your business and what you offer to your customers?
“The Wildlife Habitat is a magical environment that offers an up close and personal experience with nature. It features a snap shot of the eco systems in our region and provides an interactive involvement with the animals and surroundings.”
With so many wonderful opportunities to explore, the Wildlife Habitat is a must do when in Port Douglas. They offer Breakfast with the Birds, Lunch with the Lorikeets, Predator Plank, Adopt an Animal, private functions, Junior Keepers programs, volunteer programs and more! Locals and visitors alike can purchase a four park pass for amazing value that allows them into all for CaPTA Group parks for one great discounted price.
To find out more, head to https://www.wildlifehabitat.com.au/