Expansion to create 'world's largest' open-range zoo

South Australia's Monarto Zoo, which is set to become the world's largest open-range zoo, will help educate Australians about leading a greener lifestyle, a zoo spokeswoman says.

The zoo is to expand by about half of its current size after the purchase of 450 hectares of land next to the existing site.

"In the world today we are facing an extinction catastrophe that we have never seen before in human history," Royal Zoological Society of South Australia president Heather Caddick said.

"If we can establish places like Monarto and get as many people as possible coming through, making an emotional connection with wildlife, it's much more likely that they are going to want to lead a greener lifestyle and become involved with the conservation of animals," Ms Caddick said.

"Otherwise our grandchildren will have no animals in the wild to see," she said.

"In Australia in the last 30 years we've lost 27 per cent of our native wildlife, so we're right up there with the worst and unless we educate the public we're going to collapse."

From the tale of Dr Dolittle to the stories in The Jungle Book, adults and children alike have long been fascinated with people who have been able to "walk with the animals and talk with the animals" and the expansion could provide this opportunity for those willing to pay for such an experience.

Proposals for the acquired land include safari-like tours and five-star tented accommodation similar to that found in African game parks.

Ms Caddick said a joint feasibility study was being conducted with the South Australian Tourism Commission to ascertain what groups they will pitch the experience to and how many people the accommodation should cater for.

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"We tend to think we will pitch it to the upper end of the market," she said.

"All of these things are under discussion of course.

"But I don't think we're going to have much problem filling beds.

"At night you (will) lay under the stars and just watch the animals saunter by and that's the experience we'll be providing and you won't have to fly to Africa for it," Ms Caddick told AAP.

"The purchase of this land takes us a significant way towards our concept of what Monarto should be: an authentic African wildlife experience accessible to and attracting South Australians and also national and international tourists," Ms Caddick said.

Plans include an 80-hectare African habitat, securely fenced, with free roaming Serengeti animals such as lions, rhinoceros, zebras and elephants.

Ms Caddick said she could not estimate how many jobs the expansion would create but that new staff would be needed across all sectors.

AAP

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