23 August 2021

Moonlit Sanctuary Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Moonlit Sanctuary marks two decades of bringing people and wildlife together


On Friday, September 17th Moonlit Sanctuary will be celebrating their 20th anniversary, and what better way to celebrate a birthday than with cake?

At 11am there is a cake cutting ceremony, where a very special birthday cake will be cut by Moonlit Sanctuary’s Founder, Michael Johnson.

After the ceremony, when all the humans have had their fill of cake, it’s the animals’ turn. Keepers will be serving up “cakes” for its Koalas, Dingoes, Wombats and Emu to mark two decades of bringing people and wildlife together.

“The animals are in for a real treat”, said Life Sciences Manager, Lisa Tuthill. “Whether made of sweet potato, meat or insects, birthday cakes can serve as a great source of nutritional and behavioural enrichment.”

Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park grew out of the childhood dreams of Sanctuary Founder Michael Johnson. Michael imagined a place where people could experience the rare and unusual animals that roam the Australian bush and Moonlit Sanctuary is that place.

The Wildlife Sanctuary was established by the Johnson family in September, 2001 on 25 acres of land which was a former farm and pony club. Currently, the Sanctuary is home to over 400 inhabitants, representing 70 species.

The Sanctuary initially operated by providing night tours to the public, hence the name Moonlit Sanctuary. The lantern-lit tours were declared “magical!” as word grew about this special opportunity to get up close and personal to nocturnal wildlife that few visitors had ever seen.

In 2007 the Sanctuary began opening during the daytime on a daily basis, expanding their number of animals and welcoming 80,000 visitors a year. Prior to Covid closures, the Sanctuary was receiving over 150,000 visitors annually, and is still proving to be a favourite day out with Victorian families continuing to show their support when able.

“We are honouring this major milestone and are grateful to the community who helped us get there! We are elated to be celebrating our role in connecting people with wildlife since the Sanctuary first opened 20 years ago,” said Michael Johnson.

Historical photo of Moonlit Sanctuary showing the owner, Michael Johnson, with a mini digger clearing bush

It all began with the difficult job of clearing the blackberry bushes.

Historical photo of Moonlit Sanctuary showing the volunteers who helped with construction with Roland Johnson

Roland Johnson and volunteers grabbing a quick lunch on site. Much of the work to create the Sanctuary was done with the help of  family and friends.

Historical photo of a newly opened Moonlit Sanctuary with Michael and Roland Johnson and family friends with 2 dingoes

Early days at Moonlit Sanctuary. Michael Johnson (2nd from left) with father Roland Johnson (far right) and the Clapp family. 

The beginning of the Visitor’s Centre. This building now houses the café, gift shop and admin office. 

Historical photo of Moonlit Sanctuary showing a person with a mini digger excavating the wetlands

The first steps to create the 2 acre wetlands which now enhances the habitat of many animals.

Historical photo of Moonlit Sanctuary showing the fox proof fence being installed

Planting around the wetlands  behind the then new fox-proof fence. Over 10,000 native Australian trees and plants were planted throughout the Sanctuary.