Alice Springs Desert Park celebrates 20 years - save the date for the free family open day


A milestone year for the Alice Springs Desert Park, March 2017 marks the 20 year anniversary of the facility, having officially opened on 22 March 1997 by the then Honourable Shane Stone, MLA Chief Minister of the Northern Territory.

A special 20th birthday Open Day celebration will be held on Sunday 9 April to say thank you to the community for their support over the past 20 years. There will be a range of programs and events to mark the occasion.

The Alice Springs Desert Park has wowed visitors both local and from elsewhere for the past 20 years providing an immersive experience of what Central Australia has to offer.

Alastair Shields, CEO Department of Tourism and Culture, said more than 1.4 million people had walked through the gates since the Park opened in 1997.

“The fact that the Park continues to thrive as a strong tourism attraction that delivers both educational programs and celebrates the natural flora and fauna of the region, is testament to the commitment of the people that work there now, and have worked there in the past.

“This is a wonderful facility and it’s wonderful that the local community will be invited to share in this celebration with a range of activities for the whole family,” Mr Shields said.

Public events include:

Saturday, 25 March

Desert Park 20th Birthday Fun Run/Walk

Starting 6.30am from the Desert Park. Pre-registration recommended through Centralian Sports, Todd Mall Alice Springs.  Last minute registrations will be accepted on the morning of event.  Fun Run/Walk will take participants through the Desert Park and conclude in the courtyard with presentations. 2km and 4km race options. Prizes include annual family Territorian Pass, family Nocturnal Tour and Day Entry with an Exclusive Eagle Encounter.  This event has been coordinated in conjunction with Alice Springs Running & Walking Club. 

Sunday, 9 April

Desert Park 20th Birthday Open Day
Free entry to the Desert Park from 7.30am to 6pm.

Special keeper talks, free flying bird show, , basket weaving, boomerang throwing, kids activity zone with face painting and science activities, photo display over the 20 years, food stalls, cutting of the birthday cake. From 4pm to 6pm the Courtyard will become a relaxed zone to enjoy entertainment from Ted Egan AO and local entertainment.

A snapshot of key milestones:

  • Renowned naturalist and television personality David Attenborough visited the park when it opened in 1997. In an interview with the Centralian Advocate in August 1997, David Attenborough said: ‘There is no museum or wildlife park in the world that can match this.”
  • First Planting ASDP Car Park March 1996, Eucalyptus intertexta  (Gum-barked Coolibah)
  • Site Officially handed over from contractor Barclay Mowlem in June 31 1996
  • Site irrigated, landscaped and planted July 1996 to March 1997 for opening
  • March 1997 opened
  • 1997/98 Nature Theatre Constructed
  • 1997 Differential GPS Mapping commissioned as a first for Botanical Collections
  • 1998 Macro Irrigation Installed for Proposed Mulga and Range Habitats
  • 1998/99 Sand Country and Woodland paths sealed
  • 1999 Proposed Mulga Habitat planted
  • 1999 Picnic Area constructed, irrigated, landscaped and planted
  • 2000 Bushtucker garden installed
  • 2002 Assisted design of Desert Knowledge Australia gardens including site mapping of vegetation
  • 2004 Commenced agreement with Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre for the Participatory Domestication of the Bush Tomato (which is coming to a close this year)
  • 2004 Commenced agreement with Millennium Seed Bank (Seed Banks still sits at the ASDP, 600 species, Germination Trials continue)
  • 2007 Commenced maintenance and upgrades of the Araluen Cultural Precinct, Old Courthouse and Residency (until 2011)
  • 2008 created a new habitat, Mulga Walk to hold the Nocturnal Tour.  Alice Springs Desert Park now hosts evening spotlighting tours five nights a week.
  • 2011 installed 40KW Solar Photovoltaic systems
  • 27 Sept 2011 saw bushfire threats to the Alice Springs Desert Park’s core area with the park evacuated. 1 animal was injured
  • 2012 Renovated Aquarium and converted adjacent aviary into Perentie exhibit
  • 2013 Installed Dingo Enclosure and Nature Theatre ablutions
  • 2014 installed New Emu enclosure and carpet python exhibit
  • 2014, introduced dingoes to display.
  • 2015/16 Installed Shared Pedestrian Bike Path, Courtyard Shade and upgraded Primary Paths from the Visitor centre.
  • 2016, propagating Pityrodia loricata, a near threatened plant species in the Northern Territory which is now being successfully propagated and cultivated in the ASDP Nursery.

Animal Breeding Milestones:

  • This year Alice Springs Desert Park welcomed the 30th Bilby to be born at the Park since its establishment. Desert Park participates in Australasian Species Management Programs including the Bilby program overseen by the Zoo & Aquarium Association. Bilby joeys bred at Desert Park this year are destined for release into a predator-proof area at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s Mt Gibson property in Western Australia.
  • In 2005, Alice Springs Desert Park bred Cinnamon Quail-thrush for the first time, something that had never before been done in captivity. 25 chicks of this species have now been produced over the park’s history. A few animals have made the journey to zoos in Sydney and Melbourne to help educate hundreds of thousands of visitors about the wildlife of Central Australia.
  • In August 2011, Alice Springs Desert Park became the first institution ever to breed Dusky Grasswrens. This species lives exclusively in the arid zone of Australia, and is similar to a large fairy-wren, living in family groups. The original pair of birds followed up their first round of chicks with another 2 successful clutches in the same season; a fantastic accomplishment for any species.
  • Alice Springs Desert Park has pioneered the husbandry of a number of arid zone bird species never before kept in zoos. Many of these species have not been extensively studied by science; biological information such as egg incubation time, fledging period and division of parental duties has been recorded for the first time by Desert Park staff for several species such as Redthroat and Grey-headed Honeyeater.

Link to Images:

1. Baby Bilby

2. Cinnamon Quail – thrush chick begging for food

3. Cinnamon Quail – Adult

4. Cinnamon Quail – thrush chick

5. Dusky Grasswren – Adult male and chick

6. Alice Springs Desert Park 1997 opening

7. Alice Springs Desert Park 1997

8. Alice Springs Desert Park 1997

Follow us on Facebook for Throwback Tuesday as we celebrate 20 years leading up to the Desert Park 20th Birthday Open Day celebration occurring on Sunday, 9 April.


Alice Springs Desert Park in 1997

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