New South Wales
Size of zoo
The Australian reptile park is located on 22 acres (9ha) of land.
Eric Worrell founder of the Australian Reptile Park opened the Ocean Beach Aquarium at Umina in 1949. In 1958 this became the Australian Reptile Park when it moved to North Gosford. It started as two snake pits and an entry kiosk.
The park’s long association with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) began in 1951 when Worrell first donated snake venom.
In 1963 the reptile park mascot ‘Ploddy’ the dinosaur was constructed. He is 30m (98ft) tall and weighs 40 tonne (6298 stone). It was also at this time that the park become the first in Australia to import exotic snakes including king cobras.
From 1965-1970 Peter Krauss curated the park. It was at this time that a number of exotic reptiles were imported. It was also at this time that Australia’s first noctarium was opened.
In 1970 the Queen personally gave Worrell his MBE to recognise his role in developing anti-venoms. At this point they began to provide funnel-web spider venom to the CSL. It was not until 1980 that this long-awaited venom was finally made available.
By 1984 the park was struggling though with visitation having halved from that of a few years before. A “Save the Reptile Park” committee is formed with the goal of helping the park through these tough times. A petition with 100,000 signatures is sent to the state government asking for assistance which is denied.
The next year a management committee is formed to help guide the Reptile Park with John and Robyn Weigel, future owners of the park sitting on this committee.
Between 1986 and 1991 the focus is on revitalising and promoting this aging attraction. Sadly in 1987 Eric Worrell passes away aged 63.
Star crocodile ‘Eric’ arrived in 1989 from the Northern Territory aboard a special jet fighter. He helped to increase visitor numbers to the park.
‘Reptiles Alive’ a large budget reptile exhibit at the base of Sydney Tower opened in 1990. Over its five year run half a million visitors attended it.
In 1992 John and Robyn Weigel became the owners of the park and make a decision to move the park.
1993 saw a new site found in bushland near Gosford with design beginning immediately. Construction began in 1995.
During 1996 the Reptile Park held its grand opening on September 7. It was the first time a fauna park this large had relocated in Australia. Before the opening Ploddy made his way from the old Australian Reptile Park to the new one through the streets of Gosford. 15,000 people looked on as he made his journey.
The next year they received their first tourism award for Major Attraction and Environmental Tourism at the Regional Tourism Awards.
In 1998 the park turned 50. They also won Regional, State and National awards for Best Regional Attraction. A year later they one the ‘Award of the Decade’ celebrating the best regional NSW attraction from 1989-1998.
On the 16 July tragedy struck the park when its main building was wiped out by a fire. One of Australia’s best collections of reptiles, amphibians and spiders was destroyed. It was caused by an electrical fault. Luckily the outdoor collection was saved.
By the 9 September an abbreviated version of the park opened so as to capitalise on the 2000 Sydney Olympics tourism surge.
On Boxing Day the unique Lost World of Reptiles opens and attracts record crowds.
The final stage of the rebuilding was completed on Easter 2001 when Spider World opened.
In 2008 John Weigel received a Member of the Order of Australia Award. It recognised his contributions to tourism, herpetology and anti-venom production.
During July 2013 over twenty reptiles were stolen from the park. So far only two have been returned.
Number of animals
The Australian reptile park is home to 800 animals from 200 species
The park is home to Elvis who is a popular saltwater crocodile he lives in the pool once inhabited by Eric the crocodile who had a section in DMAG a kids magazine and was the largest crocodile in NSW. Elvis has now taken over the magazine section.
Ploddy the dinosaur
Ploddy is a replica diplodocus that stands at the front of the park. It took 1100 man hours to construct Ploddy. He is painted regularly to match different occasions such as Easter and Daffodil Day.
The Lost World of Reptiles
The lost world of reptiles opened in 2000 after 18months of hard work by many technicians, sculptors, tradesman and reptile park workers. It is part of the new entry which was built after fire engulfed the previous one.
The exhibit features exhibits modelled on Ancient Egypt, Athens and Rome. The entrance of the exhibit is the jaws of 30m long model crocodile. The first part of the exhibit is Ancient Egypt with a 5m high Sobek statue at the entrance. After the Ancient Egypt portion you move onto ‘goanna gully’ which is the Australian portion with a 7m long model of Australia’s largest ever lizard which is now extinct. The last section includes settings of other ‘lost worlds’.
Spider world is home to many of the world’s spiders as well as fun models. Huge spiders in dunnies and a big funnel web all form the fun portion of this exhibit. The zoo also has a corner of the exhibit dedicated to taruntaliville which is home to tarantulas from Asia, Africa and South America. This is the only opportunity to view tarantulas in Australia.
Eric’s Central Coast Nature Walk
The Central Coast Nature Walk hosts a number of species from around where the reptile park is located. There is an aviary which exhibits locally endangered curlews and endangered regent honeyeaters amongst others.
There is also a new noctarium which provides a home for critically endangered Mountain pygmy possums, tawny frogmouths and brush tailed bettongs.