HUNTER Valley Zoo general manager Justin Pearson and his collection of slimy and scaly creatures will entertain hundreds of sick and disabled children at Ronald McDonald House’s annual Christmas party tomorrow.
But the four-hour visit, which Mr Pearson said provides a much-needed break for some of the Hunter’s terminally ill children, seemed an impossibility two months ago after a group of thieves broke into the Nulkaba enclosure and stole six snakes and two alligators.
Mr Pearson, who described himself as ‘‘gutted’’ in the wake of the burglary, praised investigators from Central Hunter police, who have so far returned both juvenile American alligators and four snakes, for helping the zoo get back on its feet.
‘‘Without the work from police, we wouldn’t be able to put these shows on any more,’’ he said.
‘‘When you’re dealing with terminally ill and disabled children, you have to be 100per cent sure you can trust the animals to behave, and we just didn’t have the money or the time to train new animals.’’
The zoo is in the process of spending $15,000 on beefing up security, including CCTV cameras.