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by Gretel Breytenbach

It all started with a party…. you know the kind most of us feel obliged to attend, because one of our friends has been so gracious to host one, for example Tupperware! (By the way, I am an avid lover of Tupperware!)

For Penny Cooper it was an eye-opener. This animal-loving zoo-keeper went along and came to the conclusion that if there were an animal party plan, then that would be something she could truly enjoy! Three years ago, there weren't any! “What an opportunity,” she thought, and six weeks later, in spite of having a full-time job, “Tribal Tails” was born. While this incarnation of the business is more recent, the original idea was to incorporate anything to do with animals, from T-shirts to pet products!

Today's Tribal Tails is slightly more sophisticated. While the original idea shaped the heart of the business, Penny realised that it needed a “niche”, hence the African Animal theme. Who doesn't love African artefacts, especially the carved giraffes! It was also an area that Penny realised was hugely overpriced in Australia, as most of us African originals can testify to! Also acutely aware of problems around poaching in Africa, Penny realised that her business could create a win-win for the artisans who create the products as well as hugely benefiting the animals that she'd be able to sponsor through various animal charities. There's a big one on the cards, BUT at the time of printing we still could not divulge who! What's more is that Penny always had a dream to contribute in some way to the animals that she so loves and have brought her so much joy in her life. The 30 something business bombshell fell in love with the animal world at an early age. By the time she was 15, she had volunteered at numerous vet surgeries, and had done work experience at Taronga Zoo. Her favourite African animal by the way is the spotted hyena! When asked why, Penny's face lights up and she regales one with stories of why they're special, their strength, their family unity and their matriarchal society!
Determined and inspired, Penny knew even then that animals would be her life! Her parents lovingly refer to her as Dr Doolittle, as her “gift” of communicating with the animals has been with her since childhood. Penny has had some very interesting adventures in the wildlife world, from working with gorillas at Taronga Zoo, to escorting the now-famous Polar Bears at Sea World from Canada on a gruelling 76 hour journey! Her adventures have taken her all over the world, and put her in some interesting positions. Like the time she fostered a beautiful lion cub called Felix! “Felix had a broken sternum,” recalls Penny. This required that he be in a comfortable position very much like a newborn baby in a pouch on Penny's chest. He went everywhere with her, even shopping, while she covered him under a big jacket to avoid any unwanted attention! While currently Head Mammal Keeper at Dreamworld, Penny has also been Head Animal Technician at U.C. Berkeley in San Francisco and a keeper of the African Division at Perth Zoo.
Penny's focus with Tribal Tails is to provide Australians with quality African Arts and Crafts, at reasonable prices, while providing an income for local Zimbabwean artisans.
Her product is sourced directly from Zimbabwe by business associates Clement and Anna Dube. It's proving to be a mutually rewarding endeavour, with the business being able to contribute in very real ways, both financially and in wildlife education. Penny's passion is to conserve wildlife and educate people, and this is the Mission of Tribal Tails, without ever delving into politics! “I want people to know the stories behind the art and the animals,” she says Tribal Tails hosts party plans very similar to Tupperware and is looking for consultants! The products range from hand-carved items to candles, photographs and beadwork. These are all products we know and love. To me they are beautiful reminders of what's special about my other “home”.

For more information about Tribal Tales, please contact Penny on 0408 2128 92 or Gretel on 0433 883 006 http://www.sabona.com.au/'ttp://www.tribaltails.com.au/
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Posted by Gretel Breytenbach
29 Oct 2008

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