The eventful history of Bullen's African Lion Safari Park in Yatala

It opened 48 years ago this month

The eventful history of Bullen's African Lion Safari Park in Yatala

To think that only 29 years ago we had our very own African safari just down the road in Yatala. Guests in their 70's era Fords, Holdens and Valiants would cruise through the park surrounded by camels, elephants, packs of water buffalo, tigers, hyenas and of course - lions.

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Even with the technology and precautions we have today, the ability to drive your own car through an enclosure of dangerous animals still raises an alarm - but this safari lasted a whole 19 years before its closure in 1988.

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From opening day in August of 1969, Bullen's African Lion Safari Park Yatala was never smooth sailing. With traffic backed up for miles, cars were bumper to bumper just to get through the gate, with park operators completely oblivious to the threat posed by dozens of giant carnivores wandering around at will.

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It comes at no surprise that there were several incidents that took place within the park over the years involving both employees and guests.

Many workers admitted they had been bitten by hyenas and clawed by tigers. In 1973, an attendant was dragged off by lions and killed in front of a family sitting in their car.

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An Indian elephant named "Jumbo" once busted out of the park and was found rummaging through garbage bins in suburban Beenleigh in the middle of the night.

There's even a rumour out there that Jumbo once chased a lion out of the park, to which it was never found.

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In 1982, a male guest got out of his car and walked right into a pride of lions. It was ruled as suicide.

Despite a few freak accidents, Bullen's African Lion Safari Park was a major tourist attraction, giving locals and Aussie tourists an experience you wouldn't get on the Gold Coast today.

“They would stretch up and put their paws on the car – you had to keep your windows up.”

- Jan Salvati (Assistant - Wanneroo Regional Museum)

 

Staff would travel around inside a cage as they fed the animals, while guests would spectate in a sweat from their non-air-conditioned cars.

Eventually the park cost too much to continue operating, and several animals were auctioned off before the park closed down permanently in 1988.

We may not have our very own African lion safari anymore, but we do have proof that it happened!

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We want to know if you ever got the chance to visit! Or if you didn't... Would you?

 

 

 

 

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