400 early morning runners, walkers and a wheelchair user hit the South Australian savannah this morning as part of the milestone birthday celebrations of a world leader in animal conservation.
Monarto Safari Park, which marks the big four oh today, was a hive of festivity with the Run Wild event and birthday celebrations in full swing.
A crowd of supporters came along to cheer on the participants who roamed around the safari park in aid of the Run Wild fundraiser to help bring three Asian Elephants – Burma, Permai and Putra Mas – to Monarto Safari Park next year.
Participants took part in four separate events, ranging from three kilometres up to the full marathon distance of a whopping 42 kilometres, across the 1500 hectare park.
Luke O’Neill led the pack and completed his first ever full marathon with African Painted Dogs, lions and giraffe watching on.
To commemorate the 40th birthday there was also the burying of a time capsule near the Visitor Centre which will be opened on Monarto Safari Park’s 100th birthday in 2083.
Whoever unearths the capsule will be presented with a very colourful look at life in 2023. Inside the sealed cylinder will be messages from staff and volunteers, Monarto Mint Bush seeds and ‘Zuri’ a book written by Senior Keeper of Primates, Laura Hanley, about the first ever chimp to be born at Monarto Safari Park.
One notable item is a sample of poo from a Scimitar-horned Oryx, preserved in resin. Sadly the oryx is now extinct in the wild while Monarto Safari Park currently has successfully bred Scimitar-horned Oryx, with 70 currently at the park.
Helping Zoos SA Chief Executive Elaine Bensted to bury the capsule and plant a ceremonial Monarto Mint Bush was 72-year-old volunteer Marie Wright who spent more than 37 years working within tax education and auditing and sums up the spirit of the volunteers who have been integral to the growth and popularity of the safari park.
“I worked within tax education and auditing for 37.5 years,” said Marie.
“I’ve been a volunteer with Zoos SA for 29 years and my aim is to volunteer longer here than I worked in tax.”
Marie is part of the Mallee Minders horticultural team which has been fundamental to the vast influx of vegetation throughout Monarto Safari Park. Marie’s dedication to the Mallee Minders typifies the spirit of Zoos SA volunteers said Chief Executive Elaine Bensted.
“We value our passionate volunteers like Marie enormously and, along with our staff and all stakeholders, they have made a huge contribution to the growth of Monarto Safari Park over four decades.”
“Bring on the next 40 years of working together in saving species from extinction,” said Elaine.