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– (51 plays)
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Johnnie JungleGuts – Andrea Lofthouse Quesada interview (10 plays)
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Gibbon conservationist Alan Mootnick talks gibbons with Johnnie JungleGuts
Real Talk episode 1
by Keith Ballard and James Raymond
ANONYMOUS SOURCE SAYS CROCODILE HUNTER´S LEGACY MIGHT BE GOING UNDER
- I had always been a fan of Terri Irwin. When Barbara Walters interviewed her after Steve Irwin´s death I was in tears. But recent murmurings on the internet suggested to me that things were not all well and good as one might think. Bob Irwin, Steve Irwin´s father and the founder of Australia Zoo, recently left the zoo and did not mention Terri in the thank you section of his farewell letter. And now Steve´s daughter Bindi is going to be featured in a new Free Willy movie? If you ask me, there´s nothing more hilariously flawed then using a captive orca to make a movie about liberating captive orcas. You might as well use slaves to make a movie against slavery.
- Anyway, I recently caught up with a source (who wishes to remain anonymous) about the goings on at the Australia Zoo. This source worked at the zoo for some time and although I can´t say much I can say that I trust this person implicitly. I believe the things this person says and thank them sincerely for their honesty. Still, the source is anonymous, so believe whatever you want.
- JOHNNIE: In what ways would you say the Australia Zoo´s changed since Steve´s died?
- A: The priorities of the zoo have changed.The focus was primarily about the conservation, awareness and well being of the animals, it´s now just more of money making property. The conservation side has been pushed out from the fore front. Wildlife Warriors is doing a lot of conservation work but that´s not actually part of the zoo, though the zoo significantly donates to its operations. It´s not so much the zoo´s corporation.
- JOHNNIE: Could you explain Wildlife Warriors a little bit?
- A: It´s a conservation foundation which is doing a lot of work with elephants, whales, tigers, conservation projects in Africa. They're doing a lot of stuff with the zoo- the zoo gives a significant donation each year to Wildlife Warriors and pays for all their setup costs and their staff fees so that all the donations that other people make to Wildlife Warriors are 100 percent a donation to the conservation projects and they don´t go towards the Wildlife Warriors´ employees wages- they just purely go to the animal conservation projects.
- JOHNNIE: Well, that sounds pretty good. What do you think has caused this change at the zoo since Steve´s died?
- A: Steve just had an infectious kind of nature. When you were around him you couldn´t help but be overwhelmed by a compassion for conservation even if you really didn´t have it in the first place. It was so infectious because Steve was so excited by conservation and so driven to help.
- JOHNNIE: In what ways has it become more of a money making thing with less focus on the animals? What would be some examples of that kind of thing happening?
- A: A lot of animals have incomplete enclosures which have taken numbers of years to be built and still aren´t built. Meanwhile there are many retail shops that have been opened now that sell Australia Zoo products like T-shirts, hats and that. A lot of animals have passed away. Their general health and well-being just hasn´t been monitored as closely as it used to be.
- JOHNNIE: Are those shops in the areas where the animals were supposed to be housed?
- A: In the zoo there are five shops and the other shop they made is located about a half hour away from the zoo by the beach. So it´s nowhere near the zoo.
- JOHNNIE: So they built a gift shop somewhere else, expanded the franchise, when they could´ve been working on animal enclosures?
- A: Yeah, the other Australia Zoo shop is in a shopping area by the beach.
- JOHNNIE: And they´re thinking about opening up an Australia Zoo in LA. Do you think that´s more of that money making drive behind that?
- A: Depends on the way they handle it. If they just make a bunch of rides then sure it´s just about making money. I think first they need to get running really well in Australia before they try to venture out.
- JOHNNIE: The Australia Zoo is kind of having a hard time?
- A: Yeah, they haven´t finished one project but then they quickly start another project because they get all inspired to do this and that before completing the other things they´ve started.
- JOHNNIE: And you told me earlier that there´s been a really big turn over in staff at the zoo? People are just kind of getting fed up?
- A: Well, the dynamics changed a lot when Steve passed away because so many people worked so closely with him. When people saw his direction lost and things happening to the animals they didn´t want to be a part of it.
- JOHNNIE: And Bob Irwin, the founder of the zoo and Steve´s father, recently retired from the zoo?
- A: I think he´s still around there a bit but he´s mainly focusing on his own conservation work and he has his own land that he´s set up where he looks after native animals.
- JOHNNIE: Like crocodiles and stuff like that?
- A: Not so much crocodiles but koalas and kangaroos and wallabees. I think he takes some of the animals from the zoo because some of the kangaroos get too large to be on the zoo grounds. They get so large and they can jump so high that they can jump over the fences. So they´re sort of in retirement and get put back out in the wild.
- JOHNNIE: So really the question is, whose behind this change? Things have changed since Steve´s left but someone has to be in charge making these decisions.
- A: Definitely the one who holds all the yes and nos is Terri.
- JOHNNIE: And she´s openly come out and said that she wants to follow a model like Disney World?
- A: Yeah, definitely.
- JOHNNIE: How could she possibly get to a place where she could think that it was the appropriate direction to take what started as an animal conservation project?
- A: I really don´t know why she has this vision for it to be like Disney Land. She wants to open all these hotels and things.
- JOHNNIE: So were these changes why you left the zoo?
- A: I was there because I liked wildlife conservation and it became so misdirected. Things changed every hour of the day. There was no guidance and no structure. No one had any power to their position either. So even if you just wanted to do your job you could be told in two seconds that you weren´t allowed to do something and you´d just feel very hindered.
- JOHNNIE: Can you think of any specific instances of this?
- A: Well, you might see the construction workers building the one section of the park or on an island enclosure and all of a sudden someone would come in and say oh you need to work on this today and the other enclosure wouldn´t get finished.
- JOHNNIE: So what changes need to be made to make the Australia zoo strong again?
- A: The zoo itself just needs better managerial direction. They need to follow a specific plan rather than people just saying ¨I want to do this¨ or ¨let´s do this.¨ They need to stick to the plan rather than just half finish everything.