In 2021 The Hind Foundation awarded a $500,000. grant to the Santa Barbara Zoological Society for an experiential, Australian Walkthrough exhibit that utilizes best practices in exhibit design and interpretation to educate guests about unique Australian species. This will be a new path forward for the Santa Barbara Zoo.
Australia was chosen as the subject for the exhibit space for several reasons. Zoo best practices guide to organize exhibits around landscapes rather than individual species or taxons. Their conservation mission further guides us to highlight high-biodiversity, highly threatened ecosystems that make a compelling story. Australia boasts more than 300,000 species – many of which are found nowhere else in the world.
The Australian Walkabout will convert the 15,000 square foot empty footprint of a previous Asian elephant enclosure and transform it into a “close up” journey. There will be no apparent barriers between guests and some of the most iconic and unique wildlife representatives from the continent of Australia. Naturalistic meandering paths will take guests along the “outback” passing by The Billabong waterfall, around to the shady paddocks where guests can feed Emus, and through the berms where Kangaroos and wallabies hop about in the warm sun to the sound of laughing Kookaburras in the background. Interpretive signage completes the landscape and tell us the story of the delicate ecosystems of Australia, the threats wildlife face, and how Zoo conservation biologists are working to protect similarly-threatened species in California.