All kinds of critters will soon crawl their way into the Mandurah Forum as the shopping centre prepares to welcome the Critters Conservation Centre in July.
In a Western Australian first, the centre will provide a new engaging and educational experience about local flora and fauna to encourage awareness of the environment.
The long-term addition to the centre will offer a captivating program of activities for budding conservationists, young and old, including special school holiday events.
The programs that will be on offer at the Critters Conservation Centre will include:
- General entry - general entry for all ages to see the critters and meet the wildlife experts for interactive education
- All abilities sessions - for members of the community of all abilities and ages, with reduced noise and smaller groups
- Little Critter sessions - introducing kids aged 0-5 to use their senses to learn about critters
- Junior Critter Conservationist Club - a four-week program for kids aged 6-12, learning about different groups of critters each week
- Critters for curriculum - for school excursions
- Critter presenter for a day - a one-on-one mentoring program for teens ages 13-17 with a special interest in wildlife
- Critter crazy wildlife party - small groups of all ages for a close-up wildlife experience (team building sessions, Christmas parties etc.)
- Critter childcare sessions - 1.5 hour sessions for kids aged 6-12, allowing parents and guardians to shop or dine while their children are supervised
The brain behind the Critters Conservation Centre is Critters Up Close founder and Mandurah wildlife warrior Michael Smith, who has spent the last four years of his life inspiring future generations to preserve the environment and help native animals thrive.
Mr Smith said it is a project he has been working to bring to fruition for some time.
"Before I contacted the Forum, I've always been working towards an environment education centre in the bush and I've done a lot of work for places for environment centres but I realised that all the people that were visiting were already converted," he said.
"I was sitting in the Forum one day having a coffee and looking around and saw families and kids everywhere and I thought 'this is where they are so this is a great opportunity' because there's no meeting place with that environmental focus.
"We want to expand outside and do clean ups and planting days and positive things for the community but use this as a base."
Hailing from Sydney, Mr Smith left a career in the Australian Army to pursue his passion for wildlife conservation.
The Meadow Springs man said he established Critters Up Close to provide educational experiences that inspired people to respect and protect the natural environment.
"The Critters Conservation Centre at Mandurah Forum is an amazing opportunity for our environmental education mission to reach so many more people," he said.
"We are creating an exciting and convenient opportunity for parents to have their kids participate in a number of engaging and informative programs all year around.
"It's a really exciting time, this is not a typical environment and I think the most important part is that this is accessible to all abilities and demographics."
Mr Smith's two children Cailin and Sean, who are mini conservationists themselves, were equally as excited for a new opportunity to teach the community about the environment.
Cailin said she loved playing with the animals.
"All the animals are cute and we learn a lot as well," she said.
"We need to teach people facts about nature instead of them being behind a TV all the time."
Her younger brother Sean agreed with his sister's sentiments, adding an interesting fact he learned 'on the job'.
"People just usually play all day on their games but we need to save endangered animals," he said.
"Did you know that bees have five eyes? They have two down the bottom, two big ones in the middle and one at the top."
Mandurah Forum centre manager Jacqueline McKenzie said the Critters Conservation Centre would offer a unique experience for residents throughout the entire South-West region.
"Not only do we have the most well-rounded shopping offer in the region but now, for the very first time in WA, visitors will be able to have a truly unique experience by coming face to face with the state's native animals," she said.
"We're thrilled to be able to offer visitors of all ages a remarkable interactive and educational experience.
"Plus, we suspect some parents will love the chance to have some much-needed quiet time while their kids are in good hands in a learning environment."
For more information about the Mandurah Forum, and to stay up to date with the Critters Conservation Centre, visit the Mandurah Forum website.