Here’s my letter to the Australian Reptile Park about their “Koalas To Your Room” Program

Thursday, 10 February 2022                                                                       


Tim Faulkner

Director, Owner and General Manager

Australian Reptile Park

Pacific Highway

Somersby, NSW 2250


Dear Mr Faulkner


Re: The Australian Reptile Park’s “Koalas To Your Room” program


I write to you about the “Koalas To Your Room” program the Australian Reptile Park was advertising on its website as late as January 4, 2022.


I acknowledge the webpage in question has since been taken down following significant public scrutiny, and note the Australian Reptile Park is yet to comment on the issue. In light of this, I’d like to ascertain several important facts in relation to the welfare of any koalas that were involved in this program.


As I’m sure you are aware, the current Australian Animal Welfare Standards for Exhibiting Koalas (“the Standards”), endorsed by the Minister for Agriculture in April 2019, outlines a number of guidelines applying to the people and industries responsible for the care and management of koalas, including those kept for exhibition purposes at facilities (“i.e. for display, conservation, education and entertainment”). Given non-compliance with one or more standards constitutes an offence under law and represents significant risk to the welfare of koalas, I would appreciate your answers to the following questions:


                            1. From which date did the “Koalas to Your Room” program (or similar programs) run?
                            2. Has the program been formally retired?
                            3. How many koalas were used for this or similar programs?
                            4. How many individual events (constituting a koala being taken to a home, hotel, or other dwelling) were held over the duration of this or similar programs?
                            5. Given interaction with koalas (i.e. physical contact such as holding and patting) is permitted under the Standards, how does the Australian Reptile Park reconcile the stress this may cause koalas and the therefore unjustifiable risk to the koalas’ welfare that this unnecessary handling poses?
  1. What internal welfare guidelines and procedures did the Australian Reptile Park apply to this program to avoid the public’s interaction with koalas causing unnecessary and unjustifiable stress or harm to the koalas, which would constitute a breach of New South Wales’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act?
  2. Noting that S10.8 of the Standards states that “the operator must ensure that where interactive programs permit koalas to be held by visitors, individual koalas are not handled for more than: i. 30 minutes in one day; ii. 180 minutes in a seven day period; and iii. three consecutive days”, how does the Australian Reptile Park reconcile these standards with the program in question given the “Koalas To Your Room” webpage stated “one koala can be displayed for one hour”?


I would also appreciate it if you can furnish us with the Australian Reptile Park’s written procedures for interactive programs using koalas, including risk mitigation procedures, and how all procedures adhere to the following points of Standard S10.1:

  • i. a general description of the interactive programs;
  • ii. risk assessment and risk mitigation for the activity;
  • iii. the behaviours, personality traits and other characteristics that indicate koalas are suitable for the activity;
  • iv. the signs and characteristics of koala stress to be monitored;
  • v. number and qualifications of staff required for the activity;
  • vi. an interactive handling timetable and koala rotation schedule to facilitate appropriate levels of interaction;
  • vii. what is required of human participants; and
  • viii. the withdrawal parameters for both human and koala participants. (Note – Withdrawal parameters for koalas in interactive programs include: i. aggression, including biting and scratching humans; ii. restlessness; and iii. listlessness.)



Given S10.9 of the Standards states that “the operator must ensure records of interactive handling times for each koala are kept daily in a consistent format and retained on file for three years from the occurrence of the handling”, I anticipate this information will not be too arduous to find and I look forward to receiving the details of the “Koalas To Your Room” program.


I would appreciate a response to this letter by the 3rd of March. Should I not hear back from you by this date, I will be taking my questions to the Minister for Agriculture, Dugald Saunders, as the exhibiting of animals falls under his portfolio.


Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require clarification of any of my requests for information.


Kind regards,






The Hon. Mark Pearson MLC

Animal Justice Party