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Susannah Gray

Tucked away in the Hornsby Shire, in North West Sydney, is Banana Cabana, a small monkey sanctuary – and a labour of love – for Susannah Gray. Susannah has kept monkeys for 40 years, first privately, and now with the sanctuary, which is open by appointment for individuals and groups. With the help of Edcon Steel, she’s created a beautiful, landscaped environment that’s currently home to 35 primates.

A life-long passion

“I’ve always been an animal person,” says Susannah. “I loved horses when I was growing up, and I remember my father, who was a police officer, bringing home an injured joey now and again. We also bred exotic fowl and chooks. I got my first monkey in my 20s, with my ex-partner. He’s long gone but the monkeys have remained! My interest is with the older ones that have been retired from the circus or zoo, often with age-related diseases like arthritis. We give them a new home and look after them in retirement.”

The journey to a sanctuary

Prior to 1987, anyone could keep an exotic animal. The government then brought in strict legislation to ensure the protection and care of these animals.

“I’m a trained zookeeper, and I applied for a zoo licence four years ago. You need to meet the same criteria as the major zoos like Taronga and Featherdale in Sydney’s west, so it takes a lot of work and care.”

And passion, no doubt.

A mix of old and new

Susannah has been living on the site of the sanctuary for 27 years. “I had five monkeys just a few years ago, but once I got my zoo licence, I was able to expand. We originally had 11 enclosures in the old section, and I’ve since added another seven. There are about 35 monkeys here now and most are in their 40s. They include macaques, capuchins, marmosets, hamadryas baboons and we have two of the endangered black-handed spider monkeys. Often young visitors at a zoo will expect the monkeys to be jumping around all the time. But we also get a lot of older couples and groups of friends – and they understand that the older ones aren’t always that active!”

Group of family sitting on a table resting

A family affair

Susannah runs Banana Cabana with her brother, Bill Rhodes, and it was he who introduced Susannah to Edcon Steel. “When he retired, he came on board to help. He’s built all our new enclosures – and says I’ve taken years off his life! He had bought metal and steel from Edcon for prior jobs, so he already knew the company. It made everything that much easier.”

Monkey playing inside the cage

The Edcon advantage

“Prior to my Bill’s recommendation, I had contacted nearly every steel company. The main problem was communication. They promised quotes that never came, or they took forever to return a call – if they got back to me at all. I felt comfortable with Edcon right from the start. They were fantastic… the drivers, the sales reps that came out. Everyone is always very friendly. And as we don’t have room to keep a lot of product on the premises, it’s good to be able to get the materials bit by bit. Edcon is really flexible like that. It’s just great service all round.”

Different pastries on a cupcake rack

A unique destination

Susannah believes her sanctuary is something quite different from a regular zoo. She says visitors can expect to see Edwardian style enclosures (“Edcon hadn’t seen steel used like that before!”) and beautiful, meandering gardens. One of Banana Cabana’s most popular events are the high teas. Guests can indulge in delicate pastries and baked treats in the tearooms, before a private keeper tour of the sanctuary – and the chance to meet her beloved animals. “I don’t humanise the monkeys,” she says, “but you do get very attached.”

Monkey inside a cage in a park or zoo

A final recommendation

Susannah’s final words on Edcon are overwhelmingly positive.

“Hopefully we won’t need to build any more enclosures for a while (her brother is no doubt relieved) … but if we did, there would be no other company I would go with. I would recommend Edcon Steel to anyone.”

From one family business to another, Edcon’s expertise and flexibility have helped create something very distinctive.


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