New home for Wildlife Park's "Gator"

BALLARAT Wildlife Park is set to get a new state-of-the-art crocodile enclosure, much to the relief of resident four-metre long saltie "Gator".

Work has begun on the Crocodile Billabong Experience and Conservation Centre, with the new indoor/outdoor facility due to open in August. 

The $550,000 project will seat 130 people and is being completed with $110,000 worth of federal government funding. 

The enclosure will be the new home to "Gator", a four-metre long 300kg saltwater crocodile who is the star of the Ballarat Wildlife Park reptile exhibit. 

The 37-year-old and his breeding partner "Sabrina" will move into their flashy new digs about a week before the centre opens to the public.

Ballarat Wildlife Park managing director Greg Parker said the project was one that was very close to his heart.

"I've wanted to do this for a long time and now it's financially possible to do it. It comes at a very timely moment when we have a lot of things happening in tourism," Mr Parker said. 

"Tourism is depressed at the moment but it's all cyclic and it all comes back. The dollar will move and I'm sure international people will be back to Australia in big numbers."

Federal Ballarat MP Catherine King said the new project would provide a boost for local tourism. She said funding for the enclosure had come through the federal government's tourism grants.

"The better tourism product you have, the more tourists you actually have coming to your region. It really shows how innovative our tourism operators are in this region. 

There's nowhere else in Victoria you can have this experience," Ms King said.

The centre will also include an outdoor crocodile pool, an underwater viewing area and a corporate facility for VIP guests.

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