A special celebration for Moonlit

Mary gives us a smile! Picture: MPNG/GARY SISSONS

By Danielle Kutchel

Pearcedale’s much-loved Moonlit Sanctuary has marked two decades of bringing people and wildlife together – and even the animals got a chance to celebrate.

On Friday 17 September the sanctuary celebrated its 20th anniversary with special ‘cakes’ made of sweet potato, meat or insects served up to the koalas, dingoes, wombats and emu.

Sanctuary founder Michael Johnson said Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park grew out of his childhood dreams.

He imagined a place where people could experience the rare and unusual animals that roam the Australian bush, and Moonlit Sanctuary is that place.

The sanctuary was established by the Johnson family in September 2001 on 25 acres of land, the site of a former farm and pony club.

Currently, Moonlit Sanctuary is home to over 400 inhabitants, from 70 species.

Mr Johnson said it had been “quite a journey” over the past 20 years.

“We’ve won the Victorian Tourism Awards five times as well as awards for our conservation work so it’s very satisfying,” he said.

But the most satisfying part, he added, was to have been able to contribute to conservation in a significant way.

“We’re done it with the orange bellied parrot, regent honeyeaters and stone curlews as well, and we’re starting to do that with some other animals too,” he said.

“We give people a great experience and contribute to conservation at the same time – that’s a win-win isn’t it?”

The sanctuary initially operated by providing night tours to the public; hence the name, Moonlit Sanctuary.

In 2007 the sanctuary began opening during the daytime on a daily basis, expanding its number of animals and welcoming 80,000 visitors a year.

Prior to Covid closures, the Sanctuary was receiving more than 150,000 visitors annually, and is still proving to be a favourite day out with Victorian families continuing to show their support when able.

Mr Johnson said the sanctuary was looking forward to reopening and continuing its work.

“We are honouring this major milestone and are grateful to the community who helped us get there,” Mr Johnson said.

“We are elated to be celebrating our role in connecting people with wildlife since the sanctuary first opened 20 years ago.”

Find out more at moonlitsanctuary.com.au