A NEW partnership between Australia Zoo and the State Government will see the Zoo provide mentoring and training for rangers working in Queensland.
Premier Anna Bligh today joined Australia Zoo director Terri Irwin to announce the Memorandum of Understanding which will offer Wild River Rangers an opportunity to broaden their experience in wildlife handling and management.
"It may also provide exposure for the rangers to international networks and the ecotourism industry, as many rangers are traditional owners who are keen to start their own tourism ventures on their land and sea country," Ms Bligh said.
"The Wild River Rangers program has been an overwhelming success with 27 rangers employed so far - and more to be employed this year - to work with landholders, communities and traditional owners to protect and promote the state's declared Wild River systems in Northern Queensland.
"The government has invested in excess of $8 million to date in the Wild River Ranger program and is interested in finding ways to further developing its relationship with Australia Zoo, which has expressed a long-term commitment to mentor, train and provide employment opportunities for Indigenous people.
"This will provide them with an opportunity to share their invaluable traditional knowledge about conservation and cultural heritage.
"In the future it's possible for the partnership to be formalised with a 'ranger exchange' or rotational placements which will provide Wild River Rangers and zoo rangers with opportunities to further network and develop new skills in a different environment."
Terri Irwin said the signing of the MOU was an important step toward securing the future of Indigenous people and the future of the wildlife and habitat along the Wenlock River in Cape York.
"Signing this MOU signifies our dedication to providing ongoing opportunities with Indigenous people and the proactive management of the Wenlock River," Mrs Irwin said.
Mrs Irwin also said that signing the MOU on Steve Irwin Day - November 15 - was a poignant announcement to honour Steve's legacy.
"Signing the MOU on Steve Irwin Day is particularly significant as we further the work Steve was so passionate about. Steve felt it was important to work with Indigenous people to protect wildlife and wild places."
Australia Zoo was founded by Steve Irwin's parents in 1970 at Beerwah, and has grown to become one of Queensland's major tourist attractions.
Steve Irwin's father Bob said it was a very special day for many people around the world.
"This day will be celebrated by people in different ways to remember a true Aussie bloke who did make a difference," he said.
"For myself, every day is a Steve Irwin Day. I feel very fortunate and privileged to be Steve's dad."
Shannon Noll performs at Steve Irwin Day festivities
SHANNON Noll never met Steve Irwin, but the chart-topping singer reckons they would have got along just fine.
After all, he and the Crocodile Hunter had a thing or two in common.
A self-professed country boy, Shannon said he and Steve shared a love for Australia's great outdoors.
So he jumped at the chance to get involved in today's Steve Irwin Day festivities at Australia Zoo.
“It's a great cause and the whole place here is terrific, and everything he stood for and everything he achieved in his life was just amazing,” Shannon said.
“It's a shame I never got to meet him but I would have loved to get the chance.”
The day will be a celebration of Steve's legacy, with all proceeds going towards his conservation organisation, Wildlife Warriors.
Shannon will kick things off with a live performance inside the Crocoseum.
“It's sorta acoustic with a couple of guitarists and a few of the big songs that hopefully everyone can remember,” he said.
“Definitely looking forward to it – just make sure they put all the crocodiles away out of the Crocoseum before they put us up there.”
Shannon tried something a little different to the usual pre-show ritual yesterday, meeting with Australia Zoo resident cheetah Sheeba.
“It was terrific. I'm a massive fan of the big cat,” he said.
“I lent forward to have a look at her claws and they said, ‘No don't lean forward she might see you and then realise she doesn't know you and then all hell would break loose'.
“But yeah, she's beautiful.”
Today's Steve Irwin Day celebrations will also include appearances by Kath and Kim star Magda Szubanski, Golden Globe winner Beau Bridges and freestyle motocross champions The Crusty Demons.
Australian singer-songwriter Beau Young will keep kids entertained throughout the day as he performs in Animals Rock.
Visitors are encouraged to wear khaki in Steve's memory, and those who dress head to toe in the fabric will receive a 10% discount upon entry.
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