Early 1998 Daryl Panther decided to fulfil a life time ambition by operating a wildlife park in the local Grampians area.
With the help and the backing of his wife Barb the decision was made to lease the then closed Wallaroo Wildlife Park at Halls Gap with the view of purchasing it in the future.
Working on the past history of the former park and with discussions with the previous operator it was decided to reopen the park under the name of Halls Gap Wildlife Park and Zoo.
Seeing the wildlife park had not operated for some years Daryl and Barb with their sons Shane, Ross and friends spent six months revitalising the property and gaining animals both for display purposes and also for people to interact with.
Over the years of closure the playground had been dismantled and removed and much of the vegetation needed revitalizing.
The reopening was held on the 29th August 1998 with a free day attracting many of the locals including tourism operators to visit at no charge to see the displays and animal exhibits.
Seeing the potential the property was purchased by Daryl and Barb shortly after it was opened and improvements such as the driveway being sealed and reptile enclosure being added.
With being a member of ARAZPA the park gained many animals from other zoos and wildlife parks such as the Koala’s from Western Australia, primates from Perth Zoo and Alma Park in Brisbane and wombats from Ballarat Wildlife Park and Dubbo Zoo. Many of the others were bought or donated from private wildlife collections throughout Victoria.
In 2006 the Wildlife Park & Zoo was saved by the fire fighters when a large fire that started by lightning within the Grampians National Park spread into private land. During the several days of the fire many injured animals such as Koalas, Goanna’s and birds were brought to the park for treatment and rehabilitation. The Park at that time held a Wildlife shelter permit under licence from the Department of Sustainability and Environment to care for injured and orphaned native wildlife, with several hundred birds, animals and reptiles being cared for and when ready reintroduced back into the wild.
For the 9 years Daryl, Barb, staff member Ron and volunteers operated the Wildlife Park & Zoo as a family friendly touch zoo until they sold it to Greg and Yvonne Culell in 2007.