Oakvale Wildlife Park marks 40 years with launch of all new meerkat exhibit

Oakvale Wildlife Park kicked off its 40th birthday celebrations on Friday with the opening of the new meerkat enclosure.

As the three new meerkats, a brother, Juno, and two sisters, Tilly and Scampie, explored their new home, staff, dignitaries and supporters of Oakvale gathered to pat some other park residents - a kangaroo joey named Peppa, koala named Puluck and tawny frogmouth named Oscar - listen to speeches and watch an official cake and ribbon cutting ceremony.

Oakvale owner Kent Sansom spoke of the park's origin and history. He said when Oakvale Farm and Fauna World, as it was called before a name change in 2017, was opened by his parents, Jeff and Elaine Sansom, on November 1, 1979, the cost to enter was $2 per adult.

"I was only 5 years old when mum and dad started the park. It has just been great for them to give me a career and passion that I can share with our customers," he said.

"Back in 1979 when Oakvale first opened our entrance fee was $2 for adults and 80 cents for children.

"Inflation has changed now, but just image trying to charge that now. You wouldn't last long at all.

"It has been fantastic to see how the park has developed over the years."

Oakvale's newest additions - meerkats. The trio consists of brother, Juno, and sisters, Tilly and Scampie.

Oakvale's newest additions - meerkats. The trio consists of brother, Juno, and sisters, Tilly and Scampie.

Robert MacKenzie, son to past Port Stephens Mayor Bruce MacKenzie, joined the Sansom family for the celebrations on Friday. Mr MacKenzie was Oakvale's first paying customer when it opened 40 years ago.

Mr Sansom said the Oakvale experience was a treasured one.

"When people come to Oakvale they look at our animals, they see our animals but they feel our animals as well, a sense that lasts with them for a lifetime," he said.

Adding to the celebrations, Mr Sansom and wife Leanne presented a $1000 cheque to Tilligerry Habitat from the Salt Ash park's Save Our Wildlife campaign.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary, across the weekend, November 2 and 3, there will be extra family friendly activities at the park, including free pony rides. The park is offering free entry to one child per paying adult.

More to come.