The South Lakes Wild Animal Park is in line for a massive expansion after its boss sold his Australian venture.

David Gill has parted with his Mareeba Wild Animal Park, in North Queensland, for "several millions" and is now talking about tripling the size of his Dalton-in-Furness zoo.

"We are very excited about it," he said. "We want to make more and more space. We're planning to go into great apes gorillas and orang utans. We want to make all our facilities bigger and create a much more wild' type atmosphere."

Mr Gill dismissed claims that the Mareeba sale to an investor had been prompted by a raid following an acrimonious row with the Queensland state authorities.

After four years dividing his time between Australia, England and his other conservation projects, Mr Gill said he needed to consolidate his business interests. Since Dalton was more established it was Mareeba that had to go to give him time to focus on the South Lakes park and his conservation work.

He stressed that the sale deal had been in negotiation since January long before Queensland's Natural Resources Department carried out an early-morning raid on the park on March 19 searching for evidence of animal cruelty and permit breaches.

They banged down Mr Gill's door at 7am with a TV news crew in tow and confiscated most of his documents, computers and discs. But after inspecting all 35 animals, RSPCA officials found no indication of cruelty and went on to praise the park's "extremely high standards".

Mr Gill has since been charged with an offence under the Land Protection Act but he said his lawyers had not yet been told what the charge related to. A hearing is due to be held at Cairns Magistrates Court on May 10.

The conservationist dismissed the raid as a "set-up" designed to discredit him and cover up the department's failings. It follows a long-running dispute over long delays to permits to bring 100 exotic animals from a zoo in the Northern Territory.

"The row occurred because I was making a big point that the Government was incompetent. We were dealing with animals and the permits needed to be dealt with quickly."

The Natural Resources Department was unavailable for comment but, in an earlier press statement, said the park had constructed facilities without first making an application for keeping the animals and had entered into commercial arrangements for the purchase and transportation of animals without the necessary permits.

Mareeba eventually closed three weeks after the raid but Mr Gill said that was simply because the new owner wanted to shut during this quiet time of year and save money.

Local politicians are now pressing for an inquiry and have submitted a petition to Parliament of 5,000 signatures in support of Mr Gill.

"I'll be calling on the Government to look at the department's reasons for its conduct and the ethics of what it did," Tablelands MP Rosa Lee Long told The Cairns Post. "We need to look at whether civil liberties were breached."

Now back in Dalton, Mr Gill said he was relieved to have signed off on the Australian venture.

"I have been working so hard for the last four years out there. I have never had a holiday or any time for my family. I felt a sense of relief (selling Mareeba), to be able to say enough is enough."