As a not-for-profit organization we rely on the support of our community to rehabilitate and preserve the populations of animals both native to New Zealand and from around the globe. To say thank you, we have put together a list of our 2023 highlights that were made possible with your support.
It's fair to say that if you were in Wellington in 2023, you will be aware that this was the year we were finally able to welcome two Snow Leopard sisters into our Zoo whānau.
Asha and Manju arrived in April this year and have transformed the Zoo experience for our community. In April alone, we experienced our highest ever month of visitation with 40,058 visitors flocking to the Zoo to visit the newcomers.
Getting ready for these sisters' arrival was truly a community effort. Building the perfect habitat was a $6.3 million project, and although the Wellington City Council committed the initial $4 million needed to break ground, there was still an additional $2.3 million required. This money came from a combination of donations from Trusts, Foundations, and community giving, generosity that we are endlessly grateful to have received.
If you were one of the generous groups or individuals that helped us welcome Asha and Manju to Wellington, thank you.
Karen Fifield named WAZA President
In 2023, our Chief Executive, Karen Fifield MNZM, was appointed President of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums Council.
Karen is the fourth woman to hold the title in WAZA's 88-year history and, understandably, it has been an incredibly proud few months for Wellington Zoo where we punch above our weight from New Zealand's capital city.
For the next two years of Karen's Presidential term, she will focus on increasing the bar for WAZA members across the globe to continue striving for high standards of animal welfare, conservation, and sustainability.
International Zoo Educators Conference
For the first time in history, 2023 saw Wellington Zoo host the International Zoo Educators (IZE) conference with delegates travelling to New Zealand from over twenty-five countries to share ideas and insights on progressive Zoo education.
Attendees represented Zoos from across the globe, including from Japan, Guatemala and Uganda, coming together in New Zealand’s capital under the year’s theme of Me tiaki, Kia ora: Caring for Animals, Caring for our Planet, Caring for People.
The conference featured keynotes from several experts including Mary Haddock Staniland, Global Diversity & Inclusion Executive and Speaker, and President of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Wellington Zoo’s own Chief Executive Karen Fifield MNZM.
It was an honor to host a sector-wide conference of this magnitude, and we were humbled by the lengths taken by global delegates to attend the conference in person, even if it meant travelling from the other side of the world.
Lace Monitor Lizards
In January 2024, after spending a year building the perfect habitat, Wellington Zoo will welcome two new additions into our Zoo whānau: Lace Monitor Lizards Darwin and Jannali.
Some of the largest Lizards in New Zealand, these Australian native animals can reach up to 2 metres in length and will join our Meet the Locals area of the Zoo, home to several other Australian native animals including Kangaroos, Tasmanian Devils, and Wallabies.
Darwin and Jannali were laid as eggs and hatched at Auckland Zoo before arriving at Wellington Zoo in 2018. For the last five years they have been living in a habitat off-display while their new home was being planned and built. We are thrilled to have the space and resources to care for this pair, and know these Lizards will fit right in.
In November 2023, we welcomed the first Giraffe calf to be born at Wellington Zoo in nearly two decades.
Born to first-time parents Zuri and Sunny, the new arrival had a delicate start to life but is up and walking around, taking in her surroundings and getting to know her mum and dad.
In the lead-up to November, our Animal Care team consulted with specialists from around the world to prepare for every potential labour scenario. A close-circuit television feed was set up in the Giraffe habitat to monitor the progress of the birth and to ensure mum and calf's welfare were catered to at all times.
It has been amazing to witness the tireless mahi that our Animal Care and Veterinary teams have undergone to care for the welfare of Zuri and her daughter; our staff are truly unmatched.
Ring-Tailed Lemur Babies
This year we were thrilled to welcome 6 new Ring-Tailed Lemur babies into the conspiracy that we care for at Wellington Zoo.
Zeus, the breeding male in our care, is now father to 14 little Lemurs and has certainly made his contribution to the population of these endangered Primates.
With 19 Ring-Tailed Lemurs now living at Wellington Zoo, our Primate team certainly has their hands full and have spent the last few weeks conducting health checks and identifying the sex of each new Lemur.
Ka pai keepers, and ka pai Zeus for the willing (and effective) effort.
Aelina the Spider Monkey
In March 2023 Dicha, one of the Spider Monkeys we cared for at Wellington Zoo, gave birth to a baby named Aelina. Sadly, when Aelina was only 6 weeks old, Dicha passed away suddenly and unexpectedly and Aelina was left behind without a mother.
After a lot of careful thought and discussion, our Animal Care team decided to hand-rear Aelina until she was old enough to begin re-introductions into the Spider Monkey troop. Our keepers rearranged their shift schedules to ensure that Aelina had around the clock care and attention, an expression of their dedication to keeping our animals happy and healthy.
Currently, our Animal Care team is in the process of reintroducing Aelina to Florita, her surrogate mother, and more slowly to the rest of the Spider Monkey troop.
Every troop presents different group dynamics, and this process is very complex. Florita and Aelina are getting on well and the pair now live together 24/7 in the monkey house. Aelina always has full visual and olfactory access to the other Spider Monkeys, but the phases of introduction are slow-going as our keepers need to ensure that Aelina can handle each new step.
While our Animal Care team continues to work on Aelina’s progress, members of our community won’t be able to see her on the Monkey Island for at least another six months.
Aelina’s vital genetics and female sex means the overall success of her introductions to date are crucial for Spider Monkeys as a species, and the approach our keepers have taken will provide critical records going forward for any other Zoo in the world that finds themselves with a mother who has passed away and left a baby primate behind.
Mokomoko Dryland Sanctuary
In October 2023, Keeper Joel and Keeper Ben travelled to Otago to participate in a translocation project that aims to protect the wild populations of three native Lizard species: the Grand Skink, the Otago Skink, and the Jeweled Gecko.
Mokomoko is a special place, a sanctuary dedicated to restoring a small patch of Central Otago’s ecosystem that used to thrive before human settlement and the introduction of several new stoats.
The translocation began in 2018, and each year since the outset of the project conservationists have visited the site to check on the species’ progress. In 2020, 2021, and 2023, these conservationists were some of our zookeepers that were able to visit the sanctuary through Wellington Zoo’s Staff Conservation Grants.
Re-visiting the sanctuary gives our keepers the chance to document how many of these at-risk Geckos are surviving (a lot!), and how many are having babies (even more!) which indicates how successful the translocation project has been (very!).
The process involves searching for the Lizards on rocky outcrops, under stones or in brush, then taking thousands of photographs of all the individuals found. These new photographs are then matched against ones taken in previous years until conservationists can confirm whether the Lizards currently living in Mokomoko are from the original group, offspring of the originals, or descendants of the originals.
Findings from 2023 have shown that the future for these native Lizards is looking bright, and the first phase of this translocation project has been an overwhelming success thanks to the perseverance of conservationists all over New Zealand.
Being able to see how animals raised in human care are faring in the wild by tracking their reproduction and survival, is a crucial part of releasing natives back into the wild; it’s our due diligence as a Zoo that saves wildlife and wild places.
Hoiho Breeding season
Conservation is at the heart of everything we do at Wellington Zoo, and every year our full-time staff have the chance to participate in a staff conservation grant.
In November 2023, Keeper Matt volunteered at the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital during the Hoiho, Yellow-eyed Penguin, breeding season.
These little penguins face a lot of threats in the wild including introduced predators, declining fish numbers, climate changes, and horrific diseases like Avian Diptheria, which is particularly dangerous for Hoiho chicks.
Caring for these chicks in an animal hospital means they are MORE likely to survive the newborn phase and LESS likely to be killed by disease, so they can be returned to their nests healthy and plump. Giving these babies a head start in life is one way that we can ensure their species doesn't die out, a very real risk for the endangered Hoiho.
During hand-rearing season, the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital cares for 70 chicks each day, meaning a LOT of prepping and feeding, and even more cleaning and laundry.
Volunteers from all over the country lent a hand to the project and Keeper Matt was lucky enough to represent Wellington Zoo on a Staff Conservation Grant.
Local Conservation Grants
Each year, with the help of our funders, partners, and every member of our community that pays admission to visit the Zoo, we are lucky enough to award several Local Conservation Grants to groups and individuals in the Wellington region working to save wildlife and wild places.
For the 2023/2024 round of grants, the projects we’re funding will work towards conservation in a variety of ways including: restoring threatened mistletoe, teaching kids how to track native bats, controlling predators to protect birds and lizards, and designing artificial reefs to support the ecological restoration of Wellington Harbour.
As a not-for-profit organization supporting local conservation wherever we can, these grants are an example of community giving to community with a shared goal of preserving our local wildlife and wild places.
As a non-for-profit charitable organization, Wellington Zoo understands the power of partnership to make a positive impact in our communities.
Since September 2019, Wellington Zoo has welcomed 4808 adults and children, who may have otherwise not been able to experience the Zoo with their friends and whānau.
We acknowledge the expertise of our peers in their respective fields and mahi, which is why we partner with five local non-profits to delivered targeted access for those members of our community that need a little support.
On November 24th our wonderful partner Wellington City Mission acknowledged the Zoo’s contribution to their mahi supporting manuhiri with a City Mission Star on the Waterfront.
Wellington Zoo is proud to work alongside Changemakers Resettlement Forum; Emerge Aotearoa; Ronald McDonald House Charities; Wellington Children's Hospital; Wellington City Mission.
We cannot wait to support the mahi of these community organizations in 2024.