Tenielle Matheson admits that she started down a career path as a graphic designer, until the astute words of her dad triggered a life-changing turn.
“He told me, ‘find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life’,” Tenielle confides as she holds court over a group of media at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast.
With a foot in the door as a volunteer, luckily for us Tenielle, below, has never looked back.
The popular khaki warrior has quickly worked her way up to manager of the animal training and entertainment department – and is now the face of the popular Gold Coast attraction.
“I live in a sanctuary and work in a sanctuary as well,” says Tenielle, who is looking forward to educating a whole new wave of visitors for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Here are just seven other reasons to stop by to say hi next time you’re on the Goldie.
1. Hand-feed the lorikeets
This is ground zero for the sanctuary. Back in 1947 beekeeper and flower grower Alex Griffiths began feeding the region’s wild lorikeets to prevent them from ravaging his prized blooms. The often-frenzied feeding soon developed from a local curiosity to a popular tourist attraction that still’s going strong today. Every day guests can feed these wild lorikeets and enjoy the spectacle of dozens of rainbow-coloured birds landing on their heads and arms – and you can do it all for free before going through the turnstile.
2. Meet a real-life dingo
The chance to get up close and personal with Marrok, the sanctuary’s ‘top dog’, was a real highlight. Tenielle has special rapport with this pure white alpine dingo who clearly adores her too. Under her expert guidance we were allowed into his enclosure and got the chance to bond with this misunderstood Aussie icon – his coat feels amazing. Oh, and if he really likes you, you’ll know it soon enough – he’ll plant a big went kiss on your smacker! The Dingo Encounter is available Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays, for just $25.
3. Hand-feed a five-metre croc (no, seriously)
Okay, so staring down the throat of a five-metre rogue salty, affectionately dubbed Boss Hog, isn’t for everyone. But take it from us, the sound that the biggest bite in the animal kingdom makes leaves a lasting impression to anyone within earshot. If you’re more into love stories than action flicks, it’s worth stopping by here too – Boss Hog has fallen head over heels for his three-metre ‘girlfriend’ Lilly, says Tenielle.
4. Cuddle a koala
Why does everyone say that they smell bad? Resident cutie Bunker had the women swooning with his “manly” pheromones on full throttle. And boy, does he know how to play up to the camera. What a chilled-out smoothie. Get yourself the ultimate Currumbin souvenir from 8am-4pm, for just $25.
5. Free Flight Bird Show
This popular attraction is your chance to really get close to the action; a majestic wedge-tailed eagle clipped the top of my head twice on his dramatic swoops across the packed auditorium to the stage. You’ll also get to see the Australian pelican, colourful parrots and other birds of prey, and your little one may even get hand-picked to help out with this incredibly informative show. Make sure you hang around to have your photo taken with one of the feathered stars at the end. If birds are really your thing, there’s also a ‘How do you do it’ addendum ($25) in which you can find out how Tenielle and her team train these beautiful creatures to perform on command.
6. Tap into your inner Jane (or Tarzan)
Australia’s first and largest theme park in the trees is where you’ll really get your heart-rate pumping. With 80 huge TreeTop Challenges, including 11 insane ziplines (flying foxes) – such as the awesome Croc Shock where you literally zipline over Crocodiles! – they guarantee you will have an unforgettable day of thrills, action and adventure. If you pay close attention you may even catch a glimpse of a Tasmanian devil or be thrilled by the eerie howl of an alpine dingo as you pass high above their enclosure!
7. Be part of a working vet surgery
This was both a privilege to be allowed so close to the action, but also disturbing to hear how this dedicated team of surgeons and staff are so rushed off their feet. Since the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital opened in 1989, it’s treated over 8000 sick, injured and orphaned wildlife patients every year and is one of the busiest wildlife hospitals in the world. Sanctuary visitors can explore the back deck of the Wildlife Hospital and get a bird’s eye view of the vets in action through the floor to ceiling windows. See x-rays, ultrasounds and endoscopes, and experience veterinary procedures taking place from a surgeon’s point of view by a camera mounted on the surgical light. Click here to help keep this invaluable service funded.
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PATIENT OF THE WEEK This week’s patient is D'Artagnan, a lovely 4 year old male koala. D'Artagnan was found sitting at the bottom of a tree suffering symptoms of chlamydia; this is a very sad disease that is killing countless numbers of our wild koala’s every year. Chlamydia isn’t the only challenge koalas have to face; with habitat destruction worsening these beautiful animals are increasingly falling victim to vehicle hits and dog attacks while in pursuit of a home and food trees. D'Artagnan has received treatment and is now clear of the disease, however he is still suffering from pneumonia so will continue to stay at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital until he has fully recovered and can be released back into the wild. D'Artagnan is a very good patient who happily takes all his medicine 🙂
- James Graham travelled to the Gold Coast courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland.