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Development   /  Madeleine Hetherton-Miau

The Day We Saved the Zoo

When fires threaten Mogo Zoo, the keepers must put their lives on the line to save the animals they love.


Impact areas




  • DIRECTOR Madeleine Hetherton-Miau

  • PRODUCER Rebecca Barry



During the Summer of 2019-20, Australia endured some of the worst fires ever in its long history of savage bushfires. These fires burned through an unimaginable 18.6 million hectares of land, destroyed over 9,000 buildings and tragically killed dozens of people. An estimated 1 billion animals were incinerated in the flames. The Summer of 2019-20 is known as Australia’s ‘Black Summer’.

On the final day of 2019, the beloved Mogo Zoo, the centerpiece of Mogo, a small and beautiful NSW coastal town suddenly found itself under attack. Mogo Zoo is home to Australia’s largest collection of exotic species, many of them key to conservation global breeding programs to prevent their extinction. With no place to evacuate to, the animals had nowhere else to shelter and their zookeepers put their own lives on the line to protect the animals they love.

‘The Day We Saved the Zoo’ is an inspiring and hopeful story of human bravery and winning against the odds.

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0% funded
  • $150,000.00

  • $0.00

  • January 2021

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

The Day We Saved the Zoo speaks to two main issue areas:
• Environmental conservation both local and global as well as the importance of preserving global biodiversity in the face of climate change.
• Community recovery from trauma and long term impacts of trauma (2019-2020 bushfire season), in a regional areas.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

By telling a powerful story we are aiming to:
• Connect people emotionally with the devastating impact of the Australian bushfires and help them connect the dots to understand the climate change process that is driving fires & other extreme events.
• To alert our audience to the emotional impact, mental health trauma and economic hardship experienced by people directly affected by the fires.
• To catalyse the audience to take action to preserve our endangered wildlife and ecosystems.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

Impact Goals:
• Catalyse audience action to prevent future bushfires and reduce animal and habitat loss.
• Link the increase in severity of bushfires to the larger issue of climate change and drive positive government action to address climate change through policy change at all levels.
• Raise awareness of the unmet mental health needs of people who have been traumatized by the experience of bushfires and create support.
• Increase tourism to fire affected areas to boost local economies
• Increase support and donations to wildlife organizations
• Catalyse audience to take personal actions in their live through donating, volunteering and other awareness raising of the issues of wildlife loss, habitat destruction and climate change amplification of extreme weather events.

Distribution Goals. We are planning a three tier distribution strategy as outlined in previous question.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

We are aiming for a grassroots approach, which is about changing and amplifying community perceptions of the value of our wildlife and natural environment.

Our hope is that this film will be accessible to more conservative viewers or climate skeptics and will help to build a bridge to a wider acceptance of the science of climate change and species loss. We would like to reach the fence sitters who are not engaged or are actively disengaged with strong environmental messages about climate change - but who can be engaged in these issues through a positive story of human survival and courage.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

Mogo Zoo and Featherdale Wildlife Park – we have a strong relationship and have commenced filming on location at Mogo Zoo with key zookeepers. Featherdale, the sister zoo to Mogo has a strong educational arm, which is aligned with the films impact goals of increasing awareness and action to preserve animals and habitats.

We are in early relationship building with:
• Rural Fire Services in NSW & Victoria
• Zoo & Aquarium Association
• The Australian Museum

We will be reaching out to other organizations we have identified including:
• CWA – 17,000 members nationally
• Wildlife Conservation Groups – such as the Australian arm of the WWF
• Zoo & Aquarium Association - 100+ member zoo orgs in Australia & NZ. Mogo Zoo is a member organisation
• Australasian Society of Zookeepers -

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

Immediately on watching we hope viewers will:
• Increase their understanding of the value and importance of our wildlife and natural habitats
• Share the film with their community on social media and other platforms

Following on:

• Visit a local zoo or wildlife park to connect with animals
• Engage with a wildlife conservation group or other environment group
• Visit the affected regions of Qld, NSW and Victoria to support local economies and to appreciate the natural environment
• Engage more with government at all levels, local, state and federal to support better policy on protecting wildlife, habitat and policies to prevent and mitigate climate change
• Seek better education and training in fire safety and emergency situations.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

We will track and evaluate impact and success following the release via a mix of post audience surveys and against our goals over a 12 month period from release.