Man hopes to create 'Kangaroo Island' attraction in southern Minnesota

Image 1 of 3

At first glance, Christian Lilienthal’s farm in Sibley County looks like a typical soybean farm, but a look inside the barn reveals much more than your average dairy cow.

When he’s done working the fields, he tends to his menagerie of exotic animals including lemurs, emus and dingoes.

But the kangaroos are probably his favorite.

“They’re very inquisitive animals,” said Lilienthal.

His company, Wild Things Zoo Attractions, primarily showcases the animals in classrooms and county fairs, but Lilienthal’s dreams are much bigger than that.

“There’s wonderful museums and zoos around here, but this one has to be different from that,” he said. “It has to have a new piece that people haven’t been able to explore yet."

Lilienthal wants to buy a pair of uninhabited islands in Gaylord, Minnesota and turn them into ‘Kangaroo Island’. 

The seasonal attraction would be "discreetly" fenced in and utilize the natural landscape.

"I think it’s the type of thing that people just need to think about for a moment before they subscribe to a positive or a negative opinion," said Lilienthal.

The islands are fifteen minutes from the farm, on Lake Titlow. Lilienthal says the lake is shallow and swampy—a no-wake lake without much boat traffic.

"We’re really not hoping to change anything about the island itself, just bringing opportunity there," he said.

The island would showcase kangaroo, wallaby, emu and caged parrots. Guests would likely be shuttled to the island on air boats and greeted by experienced animal handlers.

"It’s not as easy as if we just set up a park some place, but we’re up for the challenge," he said.

Lilienthal first gained an affinity for Australian wildlife when he was in college. While getting his agriculture degree, he lived in Australia and worked at a zoo there. He received his zookeepers license in 2010.

In an email Tuesday evening, the Gaylord Mayor Don Boeder said he did not support the idea of ‘Kangaroo Island’. 

“I sent a newsletter out to residents to get their feelings and the response was negative toward the project,” said Boeder. “Also, one of the islands is registered with the state as an archeological site. So at this time, the islands are staying as they are.”