Former multi-millionaire Warren Anderson is still horrified that some of the rare and endangered animals he acquired for a Northern Territory sanctuary wound up at a safari park for trophy hunters.
The West Australian property developer paid $15 million for a huge parcel of sub-tropical land in 1985 and created a 3000 acre sanctuary at Tipperary Station, where he amassed about 1900 exotic animals, plus hundreds of birds, so he could breed them.
He'd flown around the country looking for perfect conservation grounds and decided it was exquisite, spending $65 million developing it including a 3 metre high fence to keep out predators.
The menagerie started with creatures bought from the late Lord Alistair McAlpine when he closed Pearl Coast Zoo in Broome and grew with imports, along with surplus animals from Australian zoos.
Some are extinct in the wild, such as the scimitar horned oryx, and critically endangered like the addax.
Nyala, kudu, Nile hippopotamus, nilgai, tapir, kafue lechwe, waterbuck, gemsbuck, eland, ostrich, blackbuck, banteng, Grevy's zebra and Congo buffalo shared the mango tree-peppered station with thousands of native fauna.
"They had a wonderful life in there. They were roaming free, breeding quickly. They thrived," Mr Anderson told AAP.
"You could drive through them and it would be like going through the Serengeti Desert."
There were billabongs and waterfalls - it was beautiful, Mr Anderson said.
But it all went to hell in 2003 when former Tipperary manager Kevin Freeman accused Mr Anderson of neglect, telling the territory government and media he had run out of animal feed.
He also accused the then-tycoon of planning to kill all of his beasts.
Mr Anderson said Mr Freeman had in one hit rolled out months worth of hay, which was swiftly fouled and eaten by deer that were introduced to the property and bred like rabbits.
The businessman agreed to get more feed and told Mr Freeman to cull the deer, but he refused.
What unfolded next became one of the most bizarre chapters in Top End history.
Having secured approval to fly from WA to the station with a powerful rifle so he could shoot the deer himself, Mr Anderson arrived at Darwin Airport with the gun slung over his shoulder and walked into a frenzied media scrum.
When asked if he planned to shoot his collection, he angrily replied "go away".
It didn't help that he added: "I'll f***ing shoot you".
"It was a throwaway line," Mr Anderson reflected.
"You've got to be a damned moron to even think I'd do it.
"Even from a mercenary point of view, why would I shoot animals worth millions of dollars? There's just no sanity in it."
He was harassed by police - even having a gun pushed into his ribs - then charged.
The court case, which only focused on two southern white rhinoceroses, collapsed after Mr Freeman admitted he'd overfed the animals and sold some, banking the proceeds.
His accusations were designed to spark a fire sale, Mr Anderson said.
"It came out in court that he had some group of people, his mates, who wanted to buy the animals and he was putting the pressure on - it sounds ridiculous but it's a fact," he said.
Despite the case crumbling, the defamation didn't stop.
Then chief minister Clare Martin told reporters she still believed Mr Anderson was guilty, saying "we haven't been able to prove it in court".
She later publicly apologised - a document the one-time Kerry Packer business partner has framed on his wall - and he was paid $200,000 in damages, the same amount he sank in court costs.
Many people still associate his name with shooting animals, but he says he long ago stopped caring about what people think.
The father-of-four, who is godfather to Paul Keating's youngest daughter, fell in love with animals growing up on a farm.
His conservation efforts, particularly for native animals including bilbies and rufous hare-wallabies, have largely gone unsung.
He used to hunt but had an epiphany in 1982.
"I ran around the Arctic for three weeks with a dog in the sled and Eskimos, hunting polar bears.
"I thought 'oh sh**, what the hell am I doing?'
"But I always refused to go to those (safari) places."
Ironically, that's where some of his beloved beasts wound up.
After losing many millions in a legal battle with the WA government, he had to sell properties including the station, then lost the rest of his fortune over the years.
Most of the animals were meant to go to Mareeba Wild Animal Park in Queensland but its owner David Gill fled back to the UK following raids by authorities.
Mr Anderson believes only the zebras wound up at Mareeba, now known as Cairns Wildlife Park, while Mary River Australian Safaris in the NT bought hundreds of animals.
A Mary River spokeswoman confirmed "quite a few" Tipperary creatures were at the property but declined to comment further.
Mr Anderson was mortified to see a photo in the media of Bob Katter's son-in-law, gun dealer Robert Nioa, posing with a scimitar horned oryx killed at Mary River.
(The oryx) has got to have come from me because I'm the only one who had them," Mr Anderson said.
"You could walk up to them - they were like your favourite dairy cow - and pat them."
Mr Nioa told AAP the late Kevin Gleeson, who was the owner of Mary River, culled a few "non-productive" animals each year to help pay for the management of the rest of the herd, which reportedly doubled.
The fate of the rest of the collection remains a mystery.
At least one pygmy hippo was shot by a pig hunter after being deliberately set free.
"Poor bloody thing," Mr Anderson said.
"Giraffes, hippos - I don't know what the hell happened to them."
Some people believe more than just one animal was let out of Tipperary to fend for itself.