Melbourne’s Muggles Call for Global Fandom Aid: Sign the Petition to Prevent the Harry Potter Experience from Harming Wildlife
By Kirsty Pepper
Imagine stepping into the depths of the Forbidden Forest, a place of mystery and magic in the beloved Harry Potter series. Now, imagine that this fictional setting could impact our very real natural world and cause devastation to wildlife. This is the crux of a significant issue surrounding Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience, planned to be hosted at the Briars Wildlife Sanctuary on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula in Australia.
The event has sparked outcry from local communities, environmentalists, wildlife carers, and Harry Potter fans. So far, 22,000 people have signed the petition urging the Mornington Peninsula Shire council, Warner Bros., and related parties to relocate the event. On February 8, 2024, the council pledged to re-evaluate its decision; however, with the event set to begin in April, time is critical and mounting support is crucial. Local fans are now calling on the global Harry Potter fandom for support, urging you to sign the petition and share this with your friends and networks.
Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience promises guests “a nighttime woodland trail experience filled with magical creatures and wizarding wonders” where you can “cast spells, illuminate beloved Forbidden Forest scenes, and try your hand at casting a Patronus.” The experience takes place through a two-kilometer trail that features lights, sounds, special effects, and props, with up to 3,000 people per night attending.
When seeking a location for this event in Melbourne, Warner Bros. became interested in the Briars due to “its ability to provide a forest-like experience.” The Briars is no ordinary park, however; it is a sanctuary designed to protect native wildlife and ecosystems. It’s a refuge for koalas, kangaroos, emus, echidnas, and other species (including a breeding pair of threatened powerful owls), serving as a critical habitat. Despite this, in August 2023, Mornington Peninsula Shire council approved this event – it is set to begin in April 2024 and run for four months, which could see approximately 200,000 people entering the otherwise peaceful wildlife refuge.
While the event promises fans a chance to interact with magical creatures, it poses dire consequences for the area’s real creatures. And this isn’t the first location where the event has triggered this response – in early 2023, Belgian media reported that authorities said they would not host the event again due to concerns about the effects it had on local wildlife.
Melbourne resident Michelle Thomas spoke of her concern to ABC News, stating that animals are “going to be in a constant state of absolute sheer panic,” with the outlet reporting that animals “could fall victim to the fatal effects of capture myopathy – a build-up of lactic acid from overexertion.”
Naturally, hosting a large-scale event like this in such a sensitive environment has sparked backlash. Save Briars Sanctuary has been founded by concerned citizens and wildlife lovers to advocate for a change in location. While wildlife rescue and conservation groups, animal shelters, protection councils, MPs, political parties, Indigenous-led organizations, Environment Victoria, and the Victorian National Parks Association have all made statements in support of Save Briars Sanctuary, the event is currently still set to take place at the Briars.
Hiding behind a non-disclosure agreement, the Mornington council will not reveal how much it was paid to host the event, with Mayor Simon Brooks stating on ABC Radio Melbourne that he is “not allowed to divulge the item, as it was heard by council.”
Political party the Greens stated, “We have significant concerns around the lack of consultation and transparency, and the secrecy around contractual arrangements with Warner Bros. The non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) councillors were asked to make during negotiations are an affront to residents. All but two councillors signed these and some information around the event is not on the record for residents to view.” One councillor, David Gill, who abstained from the vote to approve the event, commented that it was the first time in 17 years on council that he had been asked to sign an NDA.
The controversy has even inspired creative responses, with a parody of the song “Gangsta’s Paradise” performed on ABC Radio Melbourne by “Lord Voldemort,” who sang, “I wanna make Warner Bros. change their decision / This Dark Lord’s gonna sign a petition… / I know what it’s like to not be named / But keeping council secrets is a dangerous game / Wallabies and emus, have they all been forgotten? / Environmental groups say the plan is rotten.”
Now, advocates are asking for YOUR help to stand with them and help save the Briars Wildlife Sanctuary and the wildlife that calls it home by signing the petition yourself.
An open letter to Warner Bros. is also available via the Save Briars Sanctuary website.
Why should this matter to you, a Harry Potter fan perhaps thousands of miles away from Melbourne? The Harry Potter series itself teaches us the importance of standing up for what is right, fighting for those who cannot speak for themselves, and protecting the vulnerable. As fans of a series that champions courage, unity, and respect for all forms of life, we are uniquely positioned to lead by example. We can enjoy the magic of Harry Potter while advocating for practices that ensure our real-world forests and sanctuaries remain places of refuge for generations to come.