Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Green elephant raises profile of honeyeater in Tooborac

Mali, a small green fibreglass elephant with a rare bird on its back, is now calling the gardens of Merindoc vineyard in Tooborac home.

BRONWYN BEYERS December 14, 2012 4:47am

The lone Helmeted Honeyeater perched on Mali's side.

A small green elephant with a rare bird perched on its back is now calling the gardens of Merindoc vineyard in Tooborac its new home.

Mali was one of 50 fibreglass elephant sculptures painted by Australian artists for the Melbourne Zoo’s 150th anniversary celebrations this year.

After spending time on display around the city streets of Melbourne and afterwards at the Melbourne Zoo, all 50 elephants were put up for auction to help raise funds for the zoo’s conservation work.

One eager buyer was Lieutenant Governor of Victoria, Lady Southey AM, former wife of the late Ross Shelmerdine, better known to district residents as the founder of Shelmerdine’s Merindoc vineyard at Tooborac.

Merindoc Vintners marketing and cellar door manager Stephen Oates said Lady Southey was not able to attend the auction of the Mali sculpture collection and, due to the competition for the little elephants, almost missed out.

‘‘I think around 41 of them had gone and she still didn’t have one, but then she got the phone call letting her know she’d been successful,’’ Mr Oates said.

Relieved to have secured one of the sought after sculptures, Lady Southey was surprised to discover the Mali she had bought featured a special omen, Mr Oates said.

‘‘It had a Helmeted honeyeater on it, which is one of Victoria’s emblems, but also features on all the Shelmerdine wine labels,’’ he said.

‘‘The reason the Helmeted honeyeater is on our labels is because it is an endangered species and one of the few places it is found is on the Shelmerdine vineyard in the Yarra Valley.

‘‘Lady Southey was so excited and we couldn’t believe she was lucky enough to get a Mali that actually had the Shelmerdine’s Helmeted honeyeater on it.’’

Lady Southey welcomed the new addition to the Shelmerdine family at a special lunch in the gardens of Whistler Cafe at the Merindoc Vineyard on Monday with guests including Mali’s artist, Andrea Carydias.

‘‘Healesville Sanctuary actually has a breeding program for Helmeted honeyeaters and one of the things I wanted to do was highlight the affiliation between the Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary,’’ Ms Carydias said.

‘‘The real Mali at the zoo has such a high profile, so I thought this was a good opportunity to raise the profile of the Helmeted honeyeater.’’

Mali will now get a few more coats of marine varnish to protect her from the elements and may also be given a shade sail, once potential suppliers recover from the shock of being asked for a sail to protect an elephant in Tooborac.

District residents and visitors are welcome to visit Mali in the gardens of Whistler Cafe at the Merindoc Vineyard in Tooborac, which is open from 10am to 5pm seven days a week.

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