Palace Shares Potoroos

Georgia Clark from Canberra’s National Zoo receives potoroos and bettongs from Vicki McPaul, Head Keeper at Potoroo Palace.

Although an unusual choice of name for the Valley’s popular, not-for-profit native wildlife sanctuary, ‘Potoroo Palace’ has always remained most apt. It is home to a flourishing resident population of long-nosed potoroos, due to a successful ongoing conservation breeding programme. The 1st potoroos arrived at the sanctuary from South Australia in 2007, becoming a journey of trial and error with breeding, but leading to increased success as the years have gone by. This has enabled the sanctuary to effectively contribute to the broader gene pool distribution by donating offspring to other institutions, who are also involved with the conservation of this vulnerable species.

The most recent collaboration has been with Canberra’s National Zoo. Potoroo Palace this month provided them with a pair each of long-nosed potoroos and rufous bettongs. Georgia Clark, representing the zoo arrived in the zoo’s striking vehicle to whisk them back to Canberra in a luxurious air-conditioned journey to their new homes. Sydney’s renowned Taronga Zoo is also lucky enough to have secured six potoroos from the sanctuary.

“We are thrilled to be able to contribute with efforts in securing a future for this important little animal” said Vicki McPaul, Head Keeper at Potoroo Palace. “This is such a big part of what we are about, networking well with other communities and supporting conservation programmes”.

The long-nosed potoroo, like many threatened native animals plays a vital role in the survival of healthy forests. They disperse beneficial fungi spores as they forage and move around. These fungi form a major part of their diet, enabling eucalypt and acacia trees to absorb more water and nutrients, essential for seedling survival. They also play a key role in reducing the chance of fires by grazing undergrowth and turning over leaf litter.

A Carriage for the Palace

Serge says, “Welcome aboard!”

Potoroo Palace Native Animal Sanctuary can finally tick getting a bus off their wish list. It is a milestone in the sanctuary’s twelve years of operation and is significant for not only Potoroo Palace but for the region’s tourism also.

Serge Nachtergaele, one of the sanctuary’s five directors, explained what a difference this will now make. “Having the bus means we can finally provide a transport service for cruise ship passengers, as well as motel guests and other visitors to the area who will find it much more convenient to jump on our bus to come and visit.”

Over the years, cruise ship passengers have often contacted the sanctuary seeking advice on transport options that depart directly from Eden’s Port, struggling to find ways to visit when there is limited or non-existent public transport available. “We are really excited to finally provide tourists to our region with this service and to make visiting the Sapphire Coast’s special attractions just that little bit easier” said Serge.

The bus was designed in collaboration with the sanctuary’s directors and local supportive Bega business, Design Post with the end results suitably impressing everyone. Images on the bus’s exterior feature just a few of the sanctuary’s most well-loved residents, and anyone familiar with visiting the sanctuary will see some familiar faces.

Bus passengers can also expect a bonus running commentary of sights to be seen en route to and from the sanctuary, as well as an introduction to its origins and its history. People in the area may have already noticed the very colourful, eye catching new bus out and about, and are likely to see it quite a bit more.


Staff Goodbyes

It was an historical moment for Potoroo Palace when staff finally waved farewell to long term employee Alan Morgan at the close of 2018. Alan, who has been with the sanctuary since its very birth in 2006 has played an integral role in the management of its finances.

He originally joined the sanctuary family as a volunteer when he was enticed with the opportunity to be close to the kangaroos.  Luckily or unluckily, Alan was soon discovered to have other much needed skills for the successful running of a wildlife sanctuary, café and gift shop . The sanctuary’s focus is upon education, conservation and community and has become a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Alan certainly had his work cut out for him. He became renowned for and adept at, negotiating deals and doing some hard bargaining, proving to be invaluable in getting this small not-for-profit business off the ground.

Alan presents his worthy successor, Serge Nachtergaele.  

“Alan was like a part of the furniture here and kept on threatening us with his imminent departure for years” laughed Lea Pinker, Director and one of several staff who shared office space with him. “Now he has actually done it, but not before he sourced and trained an ideal replacement.”

Local businessman Serge Nachtergaele has stepped comfortably into Alan’s former shoes and has already proved himself to be an invaluable member of the sanctuary family. His list of accomplishments since joining the sanctuary is outstanding and he is also a valued part of the directorate team too. So, although the goodbyes are sad, the sanctuary is also looking forward to an exciting future.

Palace says Thank You!

A large part of the animals’ diets at the local wildlife sanctuary Potoroo Palace, is a reliable supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. As just one of the many outgoing costs at the sanctuary, even the smallest of donations are always welcomed by staff.

staff 2 2018

Casey Hawkins and Michael McDonald with food haul.

It has been a tremendous boon therefore, for the sanctuary to now be the fortunate beneficiaries of local supermarket giant Woolworths, and their less than perfect unwanted produce. “It’s made such an enormous difference for us” said Casey Hawkins, long time sanctuary staff member. “It’s so great that we can be doing something so worthwhile with Woolworth’s unwanted food, there’s so much of it!”.

Casey is one of several staff who regularly travels to the supermarkets to pick up bin loads of fruit and vegetables for the sanctuary and, spends time sorting through it and distributing, then cleaning out the bins ready for the next trip. Casey has also been one of the prime initiators for arranging the scheme to be established. “All I had to do was ask Woolworths staff and they were so helpful”.

The Potoroo Palace directorship is relieved to be seeing a positive difference to outgoing costs at the sanctuary and pleased to be continually so well supported by other businesses in the community. As a sign of gratitude, the sanctuary hosted staff from Merimbula’s Woolworths branch  recently, and spent time showing them what their food donations were helping to achieve. The sanctuary also receives generous donations from REAP, the local food rescue initiative, as well as Pambula Wholefoods and Foodworks, to name just a few.

VIP visits Palace

Julie Courtemanche, Sydney Campaign Manager for The Wilderness Society, visited the south coast recently. The visit was focused upon meeting local conJulie Courtmancheservationists, gathering knowledge, and seeing the damage to our native forests.
As a part of the tour Ms Courtemanche paid a visit to Potoroo Palace.

Hosted by Keeper, John Marsh she met many of the native residents, including the sanctuary’s very own home-grown koala, ‘Sapphire’. She was accompanied by local campaigners Harriett SwiftKeith Hughes and Joselyn van der Moolen.
Ms Courtemanche will be considering the role the Wilderness Society can play to end the logging and create the Great Southern Forest – an area to be set aside with no logging allowed in order to save the already threatened Wildlife in the area and in particular the Koalas.

Donations Pour Into Palace

The documentary, by filmmaker Toni Houston, can be viewed at

Far South Coast bat plague better left alone

The following article appeared in the Merimbula News Weekly on May 6th 2016 by Melanie Leach.

Alex wiyh F.foxes 025

Alexandra Seddon, founder of Potoroo Palace Wildlife Sanctuary at Yellowpinch, gets up close and personal with a grey-headed flying fox.

Batemans Bay is going batty and residents are calling for the relocation of the 120,000-strong colony of grey-headed flying foxes that have settled in their town, but Alexandra Seddon of Potoroo Palace Wildlife Sanctuary says this will be of no use.

Around 15 years ago, Ms Seddon bought a property in Bald Hills in an attempt to be close to and protect the Pambula flying fox camp that covers about 14 hectares.

The area can quickly fill up with the small mammals as they fly up and down the east coast in search of food, mainly flowering eucalypts and rain forest fruits.

Throughout most of March and until around mid April around 100,000 flying foxes – about a quarter of the world’s flying fox population –  were living on and adjacent to Ms Seddon’s property.

While they have moved on for now, Ms Seddon said the only humane way to get rid of a flying fox colony is to simply wait for the animals to leave of their own accord.

“Asking me if I would support humans relocating flying foxes is asking me if I condone torture,” Ms Seddon said.

“Because our relocation methods really are torturing the poor things. We are saying they can’t be here but there is no where for them to go.”

Ms Seddon said the main ways the bats are relocated was through scaring them with smoke, noise, bright lights or spraying them with water.

“The problem is, once they are relocated, there is no way on knowing whether they will come back or not. They could be scaring and torturing the creatures and it may not work.

“It’s best to just leave them as the problems they cause for people are generally short-lived as they move on in every one to two months as they search of new sources of nectar and fruit.”

Aside from the large Batemans Bay colony, flying foxes are also very common in Pambula where there is a camp flying foxes have been frequenting for hundreds of years and more recently they have started roosting in Bega.

While some people claim the flying foxes are hard to live with, Ms Seddon said the animals are highly intelligent and essential to the Australian eco-system.

“It would cost billions of dollars to do the work they do with regards to seed dispersal and pollination of eucalyptus and rain forest species.”

Having loved grey-headed flying foxes for many years, Ms Seddon said she hopes people don’t take the bat problem into their own hands.

“It’s rare for them to stay in one place for a very long time, they are beautiful, intelligent creatures and it seems like they are better at living with humans than humans are living with them.”

Shadow Minister Visits Palace

penny SharpeYet another public figure was recently welcomed to Potoroo Place. This time staff were delighted to greet the Honourable Penny Sharpe, Member of the NSW Legislative Council and NSW Labour Shadow Minister for the Environment, Planning, and Heritage Departments.

Whilst dining in the park’s café; The Blue Wren, she simply couldn’t fail to enchant the staff who were fortunate enough to meet her, with her warm and friendly nature. She quickly became an easy friend.

Ms Sharpe is a strong proponent for the banning of plastic bags and has spoken out publicly about this in recent times, pushing for new policies to be introduced addressing this major concern, so it is not too surprising that she was captivated by the display outside the Blue Wren Café showing a tank full of water containing floating plastic, mimicking jellyfish. The fascinating and informative display highlights the dangers of plastic polluting our oceans and waterways and shows pictures of seabirds dying.

Ms Sharpe was also keen to discover more about how the alarming continuation of logging of the south east forests continues to impact on local koala populations. She was guided around the park by staff and enjoyed herself immensely. A highlight will surely have been when she was privileged to have a special encounter with our newest and youngest dingo resident “Wollemi”. Still only a juvenile, Wollemi delighted in bouncing and clambering all over a visitor who didn’t put up too much resistance to the lively onslaught.

After an enjoyable and rewarding time spent at Potoroo Palace she left a warm impression on staff and a parting comment in the visitors’ book “Thank you so much for doing what you do to educate, inform and protect our native wildlife. I hope I can help you do this into the future.” Penny Sharpe NSW Labour Shadow Minister for the Environment 3/2/2016

Koalas find their Valentine at Potoroo Palace

This story was featured in the Merimbula News Weekly on February 11th 2016. Photo and article courtesy of Albert McKnight

Potoroo Palace was the site for an early Valentine’s Day romance, as the animal sanctuary is hoping that a pair of koalas will breed.

Recently, staff at the palace introduced long-time female resident Sapphire to newcomer Jimmy, and sparks began to fly.

When they first met the two began fighting and screaming leaving a lot of fur around their enclosure, but the palace’s animal welfare supervisor John Marsh said this was just part of their courtship.

Even before they came together Sapphire had eyes for Jimmy, as despite hating getting wet she would sit out in the rain to watch him in his pen.

On Wednesday, February 10, Mr Marsh said it was possible Sapphire was already pregnant, so if that was the case there could be a new baby koala at the palace by August or September.

Sapphire was born at Potoroo Palace, Yellow Pinch, five years ago.

Her mother was an 18-year-old called Susie and her father a rescue koala called Blinky – “don’t blame us for the name” –both who have since died.

When Sapphire was born a raffle was run with first prize being her naming rights and Mr Marsh said it was likely the palace would do the same thing when the new baby was born.

While she might treat Jimmy roughly, to humans she is curious and friendly – she liked to be picked up and held by staff.

Mr Marsh said staff do not hold Sapphire now as they are trying to wean her off such an action, but the cuddles started because the marsupial wanted to be reassured after her mother died –she liked to be held on the left side of a person’s body so she could feel their heartbeat.

Two-year-old Jimmy was found beside a road in the Monaro in a very weak condition and was taken to a vet in Cooma.

Mr Marsh said when a wild animal is rescued and rehabilitated it has to be known exactly where they were found for them to be released again.

As the motorists who found Jimmy dropped him at the vet and left, it was unknown where exactly he was found so he cannot be released and will stay at Potoroo Palace.

A major issue with breeding captive koalas is the lack of genetic diversity, Mr Marsh said.

Potoroo Palace was extremely excited, because Sapphire’s father was a wild animal as were both of Jimmy’s parents so that meant their offspring will be highly sought-after by other breeders.

He said it is hoped to swap the baby with a young female to continue breeding koalas.

“Once we put it out there that we’ve got these genetics, we’ll have people knocking on our door looking to swap koalas,” he said.

A koala’s gestation period is 36 days, then the jellybean-sized baby enters its mother’s pouch for six months before it emerges onto its mother’s back.

Celebrity Visits Palace