Cubs keep zoo's dream alive

Australia Zoo's Africa exhibit is celebrating its first birthday this week. Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin take time out to feed William the Cheetah.
Australia Zoo's Africa exhibit is celebrating its first birthday this week. Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin take time out to feed William the Cheetah. John Mccutcheon

A FROZEN iceblock of tuna with whipped cream on top.

It's not the ideal birthday cake but for a cheetah called William, there was nothing better.

The cub was only one of the animals in the Australia Zoo's Africa exhibit to celebrate its first birthday yesterday.

The exhibit, the dream of late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, has flourished since its opening last September school holidays.

In one year, the zoo has welcomed two cheetah cubs and celebrated the first birthday of baby rhino Savannah.

Australia Zoo owner Terri Irwin yesterday said she was experiencing a mix of emotions to see the dream of her late husband flourish.

"We're not there yet but we're still moving ahead with what he wanted to do," she said.

"It's a mixed emotion of being so excited and proud and so sad that he's not here to experience it.

"We're determined to keep his dream alive."

Speaking on the Coast's tourism industry, Ms Irwin said she saw turbulent times as "levelling off" and business picking up again.

"For myself, it's a point of pride to say let's move ahead ... we've opened Africa and a year on we're looking forward to having baby rhinos and a baby giraffe," she said.

"So the sky's the limit for what we're achieving."

Rhino Inyeti is expecting her first calf while Caballe will give birth to a baby brother/sister for Savannah. Both are due early next year.

Other plans for the zoo include a special project relating to Robert and dinosaurs.

The September school holidays are sure to be full-on for the team at the zoo. Africa's first birthday cake will be cut in the Crocoseum on September 24.

Visitors will be given a free slice of cake to celebrate from 3.30pm while it lasts.

Bindi will perform for the first time since 2010 with a new daily show, followed by the Irwin family feeding the crocodiles.

There will be free African animal mask workshops every day, as well as free African drumming workshops on the weekends and a performance by the Watoto Children's Choir on September 28.

Topics:  animals australia zoo bindi irwin cheetah steve irwin wildlife

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