Zoo entrance on Motions Road
|Date opened||17 December 1922|
|Location||Western Springs, Auckland, New Zealand|
|Land area||16.35 hectares (40 acres)|
|Number of animals||750+|
|Number of species||120|
|Annual visitors||677,522 (2007)|
|Major exhibits||ASB Elephant Clearing, Aussie Walkabout, Hippo River, The Rainforest, Kidzone, Pridelands, Te Wao Nui, Tiger Territory, Primate Trail, The Tropics, NZCCM|
Auckland Zoo is a 16.35-hectare (40-acre) zoological garden in Auckland, New Zealand, situated next to Western Springs park not far from Auckland's central business district. It is run by the Auckland Council with the Auckland Zoological Society as a supporting organisation.
Auckland Zoo opened in 1922 experiencing early difficulties mainly due to animal health issues. By 1930 a sizable collection of animals had been assembled and a zoological society formed. The zoo consolidated during the Second World War and was at that time under the leadership of Lt. Col. Sawer. After the war the collection was expanded, and in the 1950s chimpanzees were acquired to provide tea parties for the public's entertainment, but this practice ceased in 1964. In 1973 the zoo expanded into the adjacent Western Springs park. From the late 1980s to the present day, many old exhibits were phased out and replaced by modern enclosures. In 2011 the zoo opened its largest development, Te Wao Nui, which exhibits native New Zealand flora and fauna.
The zoo is separated loosely into areas defined by the region of origin of the species exhibited, its taxonomy, or by biome. The zoo plays a part in conservation (mainly of New Zealand species), research and education. It has many modern features such as the New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine (NZCCM).
- Early history
In February 1911 businessman J.J. Boyd purchased 6 acres in Symonds Street, Onehunga for the purpose of establishing Auckland's first zoological facility. Boyd had established an earlier zoo in 1910 at Upper Aramoho near Wanganui (in the southern part of New Zealand's North Island).
Boyd's Onehunga Zoo was a constant source of aggravation for the local council, local residents would complain regularly about the sounds and smells, with regular attempts to close it in the following years by the Council, which prompted a successful run for mayor of Onehunga by Boyd. Finally a change in the By-laws by the Onehunga Borough Council forced Boyd to close the zoo in 1922. The Auckland City Council purchased the remainder of the animals, Boyd had not already sold to other individuals, as the basis for a group that would form the nucleus of the permanent zoo at Auckland's Western Springs. There is still a Boyd Street in Onehunga today.
On the afternoon of Saturday 16 December 1922, the zoo was opened by the Governor-General of the time,Lord Jellicoe, with the mayor of Auckland James Gunson in attendance to a sizable crowd. At this time Western Springs was 4 mi (6.4 km) from the town hall in what was then a semi rural area. The story of Boyd's zoo was well publicised and the public warmed to the zoo immediately.
The early zoo was a bleak and uninspiring place and had been founded with an initial fund of ₤10,000. However, in 1923, the staff quickly set about planting 5,000 trees and developing the grounds to a pleasant setting.
The council had a meeting on 26 July 1923 with the purpose of arranging the location of a flying aviary, a monkey house and accommodation for the polar bears, bison and birds of prey. Money was also spent developing a bandstand; hippopotamus pools, elephant house and walk, refreshment kiosk and a tiger arena.
L.T. Griffin was the zoo's first supervisor and in effect its first director. He went to Africa in 1923 to acquire species for the newly formed zoo. What followed was an aggressive policy of expansion over the next few years, including the zoo's first animal star, the female Indian elephant, Jamuna, whose influence is still seen today by Jamuna plaza in the rear of the modern zoo. The zoo originally had two keepers who worked seven-day weeks. The early mortality rate of animals in the zoo was terrible especially considering modern standards. However, this was normal for the time.
In 1927 the zoo was still expanding rapidly. By December there were 250 mammals of 80 species, more than 1000 birds of 130 species and 24 reptiles of 6 species. Total expenditure on the zoo amounted to ₤53,818. Mortality rates were still high and staff were struggling with a plague of rats but there was positive news as well. Some of the zoo's most popular enclosures were completed and people were still keen to donate animals. Perhaps most encouraging was that 25 mammals and 62 birds were born at the zoo in 1928. By the end of the 1920s the zoo was well established had assembled a large collection in a relatively short period of time.
On 17 July 1929 the formation of the Auckland Zoological Society was announced whose main purpose was to encourage scientific study.
The zoo's first male elephant arrived at the zoo in November 1930 from Hobart Zoo, Tasmania, Australia. Rajah stood eight feet three inches at the shoulder and was 13 years old. Rajah spent six years in Auckland before his keeper began to lose control of him and he was put down, ironically by the future director of the Zoo Lt. Col. Sawer, (this was considered more humane than being chained up for the rest of his life). It transpired that Rajah's unpredictable nature was due to a lit cigarette being put up his trunk by a patron while still in Hobart, however there are no contemporary reports in the newspapers of the time to support this as sound evidence. Rajah's amazing bulk is on display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
In 1931, due to improvements in accommodation and handling the mortality rate dropped significantly. L.T. Griffin, the original director, died in 1935 and his last report was an optimistic one. On the top of the list for a new director was Lt. Col. E. R. Sawer, one-time Director of Agriculture in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Already in his mid-fifties, Col. Sawer was an advocate for the newish notion that zoological parks were fundamentally about education, science and conservation. Initially approached to report on the zoo, the council was suitably impressed with his submission of six pages of closely typed analysis on where the zoo should be headed. This report not only showed his general approach but gave the fullest report on the zoo at the time.
Stock numbers were heavily reduced in 1935 and some such as the apes, sea lions and camels had disappeared completely and the polar bears and South African animals were senile and aged. Sawer's report called for animals to be paired or the sharing of enclosures of animals in "mournful solitude". Sawer made sweeping changes with the overwhelming feeling being that of order and co-ordination. Sawer was appointed curator on 1 April 1936. The mortality rate was now 10 percent compared with 29.5 percent for mammals and 40 percent for birds at London Zoo in 1934. This is further demonstrated by the figures in 1937, when only 9% of animals died, compared to a full 35 percent of the animals in 1930. For the first time in 1939 natural increase had overtaken mortality in mammals. Sometimes the Colonel's remedies were miraculously effective. A Tiger suffering from a cancerous intestinal sarcoma was successfully treated with massive doses of rhubarb and laxative. Much of the improvement came from attention to diet and supplements by providing food with vitamins for deficiencies, improved fertility and reduced disease resulted and previously barren animals began to breed, Sawer was also a gifted marketer and pushed for greater attendance and an aquarium similar to that which had greatly increased visitors at the New York Zoo.
In February 1938 the first keeper to suffer an injury was W.A. (Bill) Hawke who was attacked by a bear and suffered a serious leg injury. After 5 weeks in the hospital he could not continue his keeping duties but stayed at the zoo for a further 30 years as a gatekeeper.
This point is where Sawer is first seen to be at odds with the Council. He called for a clear objective for the zoo, attention to education, relaxation of importing animal restrictions, and the increased ability to exhibit native New Zealand birds. The end of the depression and the subsequent economic recovery, helped Sawer in the transformation from a group of emptying cages to a "full house of exhibits".
With the advent of World War 2 during the period of 1939 - 1945, saw the zoo trying to survive. Attendance was down, animal importation and supplying zoo animals with food was low on the New Zealand Government's list of priorities. Due to these pressures, exhibits changed to more localised and rural representatives. The arrival of United States military personnel in June 1942 helped the zoo, especially because the personnel were quartered close to Western Springs. It was not infrequent for the majority of weekend visitors to be in uniform. The end of the war found the zoo in a state of slight disrepair and depletion of stocks, but in good condition considering the conflict of the last six years. Furthermore, this time saw the retirement, and movement of many of the early or original members of the zoo staff.
With the war ending, Auckland Zoo's problems did not evaporate. Zoos all over the world were looking to improve collections, and New Zealand's isolation was a deterrent to animal exporters. Additionally Wellington Zoo was getting favoritism from politicians, and Auckland was still not allowed to exhibit native fauna.
1948 saw was a turnaround point for the zoo, with new capital works being approved. In Sawer's March 1949 report, the details of the animals were given as 165 mammals in 51 species, 329 birds in 98 species and 19 reptiles in 8 species. An aquarium was built, on a smaller scale than Sawer had anticipated, but successful nevertheless. The zoo had also finally won the right to exhibit Kiwis, partly due to New Zealand soldiers becoming known as Kiwis during the War. A curator's house, offices and laboratory were constructed in 1949.
In late 1948 the council called for the first animal entertainments which Sawer strongly opposed, however Sawer was now approaching 70 years of age and his career was drawing to an end. Sawer recommended a full-time on-site curator and veterinarian and started to look for a successor.
"Sawer's retirement marked the end of a remarkable era. Despite considerable adversity, the Colonel had managed to keep the zoo operational and in better condition than anyone could reasonably have expected. But if Sawer had seemed ahead of his time in wanting the zoo to be seen primarily as an educational institution, the council had other priorities". The change of curators plunged the zoo into a pursuit of the animal entertainments Sawer had so strenuously resisted.
Robert W. Roach, 36, an English veterinarian took over as curator of the zoo in November 1949 with Sawer staying on as assistant curator until July 1950. Sawer died only nine months later aged 71, having lived in or around the zoo for the last 15 years of his life. Roach introduced a process of regularly opening new exhibits and postcards to the zoo. The next five years saw a commitment to increased expenditure by the Council with improvements to existing, or new enclosures for sun bears, wombats, echidnas, monkeys, tigers and birds.
Tragedy stuck the zoo twice in 1954, first with the death of Albert Barnett the zoo foreman. Barnett died after a finger became infected in what was initially thought to be a minor injury sustained at work. In August, another staff member, 65 year old Frank Lane, who had also worked at the zoo since its opening like Barnett, was killed in a much publicised accident. Lane had just fed a young elephant, Kassala, and was climbing back through the rails between the stalls when Jamuna swung her trunk knocking him into the wall and killing him instantly. Barnett had been Jamuna's regular keeper and it was reported she had been upset since his death. It is believed Lane's death was the result of a tragic accident rather than a deliberate attack. Jamuna spent the rest of her life without incident.
Aucklanders were now enjoying increased disposable income and free time; however, pubs, the cinema, and other attractions were still closed on Sundays and public holidays. Also a huge number of Aucklanders were in their 30's and 40's and had strong fond childhood memories of the zoo.
1955 saw the council call for the zoo to obtain chimpanzees for performing shows. The zoo was adding new attractions, a miniature train and in September two popular orangutans, Topsy and Turvey arrived. Four young performing chimpanzees arrived from Regent's Park Zoo in October and work was speedily completed on the construction of a chimpanzee performing area.
In June 1957, the zoo found itself on the verge of a special event with the birth of twin polar bear cubs. Although one of the cubs died shortly after birth, the surviving cub, Piwi, was in good health. However, the cub was drowned when its mother was giving it swimming lessons, it was eleven weeks old. It is believed she held her cub too low on her chest. A stunned crowd watched as Piwi passed.
Roach resigned in 1958 taking up a position in Kenya. During his time as Director the enclosures in the zoo had been advanced and basic hospital facilities, a quarantine area, better equipment, and service areas had been created. Roach made many recommendations for the zoo most notably the expansion into Western Springs park. The next two years saw the turn over of staff and the opening of a Children's Zoo.
In August 1960, Derek Wood from Chester Zoo was appointed as Zoo supervisor. Wood brought with him a male giraffe named John from England's Regent's Park Zoo to establish a new herd. Wood's first report in 1961 was positive and called for pairing of animals, improvements to accommodations, and a nocturnal house for New Zealand's national icon the kiwi. 310,500 people visited the zoo in this year. Also in 1961 a female Elephant, Malini, arrived from Singapore, she was a long awaited companion for Jamuna. Public feeding continued at the zoo and the perennial problems with rats, eels and flooding was still ongoing, there was pressure on the facilities and abultions, many were still the originals from opening and the first serious calls for expansion began.
A second group of four tea party chimpanzees had arrived in 1959 and by February 1963 the council conceded that the tea parties had become unsafe to continue. However, they had become established, popular, and profitable, and Wood was instructed by the council to investigate importing additional chimpanzees. Change in British legislation and the New Zealand Customs Department blocking of an import permit finally ending the parties with the final one taking place in May 1964. These chimpanzee displayed abnormal, anti social behaviour for the rest of their lives. One, Janie, remained at the zoo, until her death on 11 October 2013, aged 60.
During 1962 and 1963 a mysterious skin ailment afflicted the polar bears and would not respond to treatment. Two adult males, Natuk and Brunus and an adult female Natasha had to be euthanized. Natasha was the mother of the only cub to survive to adulthood in the seventy years Auckland Zoo exhibited polar Bears. His name was Chimo and he was born in the early sixties. This period also saw the arrival of many new animals, including a pregnant zebra, a female giraffe Anita, a pair of Bengal tigers, two young polar bears, a giant anteater, two capuchin monkeys, and four spider monkeys. The giraffe herd and spider monkey troop at the zoo today are descended from these imports.
Improvement of the buildings, exhibits and processes of the zoo were showing results, with old cages and aviaries demolished and new gardens planted. However, the most important undertaking was the formulation of a 25 year plan by the Council including an expansion into Western Springs park and a move to natural, moated, barless enclosures.
In September 1965 the zoo's star elephant Jamuna died. She was believed to be approximately 50 years old and had carried over 750,000 guests. Less than a year later in May 1966 a visitor to the zoo decided to climb a safety barrier and the orangutan, Turvey grabbed him through a bar, biting him. The man received only minor wounds thanks to the intervention of a keeper who happen to be passing by.
The following year included a great number of new animal arrivals again. Including Indian antelope, white tailed deer and Barbary sheep from Taronga Zoo, 23 keas from the South Island (two of which went to Dallas Zoo for three armadillos), 20 Australian lizards and two black leopard cubs. In April 1968, Ma Schwe, a female elephant came as a replacement for Jamuna.
The end of the 1960s saw a long term plan for where the zoo's administration, collection and grounds were headed. The zoo's original entrance on Old Mill Road (which had been in use since 1922) was closed with a side entrance opening on Motions Road.
The early 1970s brought an improvement to the grounds, exhibits and animal husbandry. Improvement in veterinarian practices and equipment, stopping of public feeding (1979) and more naturalistic enclosures lead to healthier, happier animals and subsequently breeding success increased.
Animals deemed unsuitable for Auckland were transferred or phased out (not actively bred) of the zoo's collection. Behavioural enrichments were first provided during this time.
The NZI Kiwi Nocturnal House was opened in May 1971 and was the first of its kind in New Zealand. It still exists today as BNZ Kiwi and Tuatara House. Expansion finally was approved in August with an extra 12 acres (49,000 m2) into Western Springs to be developed, work began in 1973. Kashin, a female Indian elephant arrived from Como Zoo in the US the same year (was still at the Zoo in the Animal Planet Elephant Clearing until her death in 2009). Two years later the first full-time teacher at the zoo was employed.
A proposal for a rural or open range zoo was put forward for the housing and breeding of larger mammals. The proposal has been brought up periodically but never realised. Also in 1976 the first comprehensive course for keepers started at the Auckland Technical Institute.
The late 1970s included more developments at the zoo than any previous time. A new souvenir shop, cafeteria and enclosures for the giraffe, zebra and antelope were completed. Animal diets were being refined to today's standard when quality and varied ingredients are purchased and meals detailed to individual species. White rhinoceros and tamarins arrived for the first time.
A new Hippo enclosure, the availability of animal "adoption" and transfer of zoo marketing to a professional organisation marked 1980.
The following year the zoo's entrance was moved to its current location (since renovated) in a carpark off Motions Road and the construction began on an improved animal hospital (completed in 1986 and since replaced by NZCCM). Fireworks in nearby Western Springs park were banned due to a giraffe, Lo Cecil's death. A year later the elephant, Ma Schwe died suddenly due to acute heart failure.
A larger Aquarium opened in 1982. However, visitor numbers started to show a decline, partly due to the opening of the Rainbow's End theme park and Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World in the Auckland area. The aquarium was closed in December 2007.
In January 1987 the new orangutan exhibit opened (currently part of the zoo's Just Juice Primate Trail), which now holds one of the zoo's two present Orangutan groups, and zoo visitors began to rise again. At the time, it was the zoo's most impressive and costly ever exhibit designed to be moated and barless. However, a much more spectacular short term exhibit was being investigated.
In 1986 the Chinese Government offered Australian Prime Minister Hawke a pair of giant pandas on loan for Australia's bi-centenary celebrations. They organised a three month stay in Melbourne Zoo and a three month stay in Taronga Zoo, Sydney. Auckland Zoo quickly investigated the feasibility of a third stop in Auckland. The Council agreed the two pandas should have every facility for their well being and an enclosure was quickly built (which currently holds the second group of orangutan). The giant pandas arrived at the zoo in October 1988, a four year old male, Xiao Xiao and a three year old female Fei Fei for a popular three months. Over 300,000 saw the giant pandas during their stay.
- Recent history
The current female Asian elephant at the zoo, Burma, arrived in 1990, with the Elephant Clearing exhibit beginning construction soon after. It is a large moated enclosure with a modern elephant house and pool, in which the animals can completely submerge.
The following 15 years has seen the renovation of large areas of the zoo into its present state, predominately filled with moated, barless, naturalistic enclosures. The Newstalk ZB Rainforest opened in 1996 adjacent to the original Elephant house, exhibiting primarily primate species. One year later, in 1997, the Pridelands area of the zoo opened including a small refreshments stand, (Lion's Larder), the Lion Hill water moated exhibit, (with no bars between visitor and the zoo's pride of lions) and enclosures for the large African mammals namely giraffe, rhino and zebra.
In the early 2000s, the zoo completed Sealion and Penguin Shores. The sealion pool is a filtered salt water tank with a circulating supply. The exhibit includes a New Zealand shore birds aviary. Also finished in this period was Hippo River, an area of the zoo which showcases animals in a simulated African wetland.
The Sumatran Tiger breeding programme had a successful mating of Molek and Oz in 2008 resulting in three cubs.
Three Orangutans, Horst, Indra and their daughter Intan departed for Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, Florida in July 2009. Horst and Indra were two of the zoo's original group of Bornean Orangutans which arrived during the early 1980s along with Dara and Charlie. There have been five births of Orangutans at the zoo, the most recent to Charlie and Melur in November 2005. The male baby was named Madju.
In September 2011, Auckland Zoo completed its largest project in the zoo's history, Te Wao Nui. Te Wao Nui covers over a 5th of the zoo grounds and is completely focused on showing visitors New Zealand's unique flora and fauna. There are 6 parts or habitats: The Coast, The Islands, The Wetlands, The Night, The Forest and the High Country.
Auckland Zoo is currently home to over 875 individuals representing 138 species, and covers 16.35 hectares (40 acres). The zoo is organised into exhibition areas grouped by region of origin, taxonomy, or biome, which are listed alphabetically below.
- ASB Elephant Clearing - This is the home of the zoo's elephant. The clearing features a pool and mud wallow. The zoo currently has one elephant, female Asian elephant Burma.
- Aussie Walkabout - Wallabies, kangaroos, and emus share a mixed walk-through exhibit which leads to an Australian bird aviary featuring rainbow lorikeets.
- Hippo River - This area of the zoo has been made to imitate an African wetland environment. It features hippopotamus, serval, leopard tortoises, Hamadryas baboons, the Cheetah Spot, and flamingos.
- Orangutan Trail - The zoo's family of Bornean orangutans can be found in this part of the zoo. The trail ends up at the Ring-Tailed Lemur enclosure.
- The Rainforest - Full of naturalistic exhibits this area boasts tarantulas, agouti, and primate species namely; spider monkeys, siamang gibbons, and Bolivian Squirrel Monkeys
- The Tropics - A recently finished group of enclosures exhibiting South-American animal species. Here you will find American alligators, a group of Cotton-top tamarins, golden lion tamarins and pygmy marmosets.
- KidZone - A children's zoo with a play area and animals including chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, frogs and locusts. The zoo's kunekune pigs also live here.
- Pridelands - Large African animals live here. Giraffes, zebras and ostriches are all found in one large enclosure, while springboks and white rhino share the opposite enclosure. Past the Pridelands boardwalk, Auckland Zoo's pride of five lions can be found on Lion Hill. Authentic Zulu huts and a termite colony can also be seen here.
- Sealion and Penguin Shores (Now part of Te Wao Nui) - is home to California sea lions, New Zealand fur seals and a subantarctic fur seal, little blue penguins and several shore birds. This exhibit is now named 'The Coast', and is a section of Auckland Zoo's New Zealand precinct 'Te Wao Nui'.
- Te Wao Nui - Te Wao Nui (meaning "the living realm" in the Māori language) features six ecological New Zealand environments; The Coast, The Islands, The Wetlands, The Night, The Forest and The High Country, and is home to more than 60 native New Zealand animal species and 110 plant species native to New Zealand.
- Tiger Territory - Auckland Zoo has three rare Sumatran tigers; male Oz, female Molek and one of their three offspring, a male named Berani. Oz is usually housed in his own enclosure, completed in 2006. Molek and Berani are in a large enclosure which dates back to 1922 and originally housed up to two prides of lions. It previously housed Molek's sister, Nisha, before her death, and has been extensively renovated. Facilities allow the tigers to swap enclosures at times. On 12 June 2008, Molek gave birth to three tiger cubs. Initially, it was believed only one tiger cub had been born but two more were seen several days later. The male cubs were named Jalur (meaning stripes), and Berani (meaning spirited, brave or courageous) and their sister was named Cinta (meaning love). Jalur and Cinta have since been transferred to Symbio Wildlife Park in NSW, Australia.
- Other animals- Other animals include red pandas, African porcupines, Galapagos tortoises, Oriental small-clawed otters, freshwater eels and meerkats.
New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine (NZCCM)
The NZCCM was opened on 10 August 2007. This NZD $4.6 million, 980 square metres (10,500 sq ft) facility is the first national centre for conservation medicine in the world. The operating theatre is visible to the public and surgery is sent via cameras above the operating table to screens in the gallery. Researchers can also be watched while at work.
The viewing gallery features exhibits with a range of specimens including preserved remains of animals that required amputation, and small animals that have been mounted in the past, information about the transmission of diseases between humans and animals, microscopic images projected on a large screen (controlled by the visitor), and the different anatomies of various species. The zoo describes conservation medicine as, "A practice that addresses the connections between our (human) health, with the health of animals and the environment".
The Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund supports a number of conservation programs, both overseas and in New Zealand. The currently supported overseas projects are a turtle and tortoise programme in Cúc Phương National Park, Vietnam, the Sumatran orangutan Project and the Sumatran tiger. Other past projects include the sun bear.
Local conservation projects include the "Ark In The Park" project in Auckland's Waitakere Ranges and the Waipoua Forest Trust in New Zealand's Northland region. There are also captive breeding programmes to support the kiwi recovery program and the tuatara. Other programmes involve the weta, the kākā (one of New Zealand's native parrots), the kererū (wood pigeon), the brown teal, the blue duck and Archey's frog. Not all of these programmes have been successful. Critically endangered Archey's frogs were successfully breeding at a captive facility at the University of Canterbury, but when the programme was transferred to Auckland Zoo, breeding ceased and over half of the frogs, including juveniles bred at the Canterbury facility, died, possibly owing to the use of fluoridated water to care for the frogs.
The zoo helps educate school children about their own environment and the animal kingdom in general at the Discovery and Learning Centre. Another feature offered by the zoo are function facilities including an overnight stay option and twilight tours (Safari Nights) as well as Zoom (behind the scenes) tours.
The zoo also runs a Junior ZooKeeper program which allows children aged 6–13 years to see what it is like to be a zookeeper for a day. The program runs during school holidays and activities include helping to clean, feed and care for various zoo animals.
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