The International Union for Conservation of Nature has this month acknowledged the significant contributions of botanic gardens, aquariums, and zoos around the world in their mission to protect wild animals, fungi, and plants. 

Wellington City Council’s Kōrau Mātinitini | Social, Cultural, and Economic Committee Chair Councillor Teri O’Neill welcomes this news which highlights the value the city’s parks, gardens and zoos are contributing to the environment around us.

“Wellington Zoo, Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush, the Botanic Garden ki Paekākā and Zealandia are all regularly recognised locally and internationally for their amazing conservation work, contributing to the protection and preservation of our taonga and environment.

“As caretakers of this land, we proudly punch above our weight in conservation matters, and the results are on our doorsteps with native bird numbers soaring, a green belt the envy of the world, threatened plant species being propagated, protected and preserved, and marine reserves burgeoning with sea life.”

The IUCN’s Position Statement addresses the pivotal role of these institutions in conservation work including veterinary science, wildlife reintroduction and translocation, research, education, community engagement, and fostering access to nature-based experiences.

“The IUCN Species Survival Commission recognizes the leading role that these organisations already play in the science and practice of conservation. Species can recover in the wild, if given a chance in well-managed captive populations such as those maintained by zoos, botanic gardens, and aquaria”, says IUCN President, Razan AI Mubarak.

In Pōneke Wellington, conservation is central to the missions at both Wellington Zoo and the Wellington Botanic Gardens.

A not-for-profit organisation, Wellington Zoo participates in conservation projects on local, national, and international levels. Locally, the veterinary team at Te Kōhanga The Nest spend their days rehabilitating native animals that have been injured, while nationally local conservation grants are awarded each year to local researchers working to protect our region’s native flora and fauna. Internationally, the Zoo partners with conservation organisations including Mountain Spirit in Nepal, an organisation working to protect vulnerable Snow Leopard populations through local education initiatives.

President of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and Wellington Zoo Chief Executive, Karen Fifield MNZM, says “official recognition from the IUCN SSC is a sign that this global body values our work, and we are excited to do even more knowing we have their support”.

Aligned with the mission of Wellington Zoo, Pōneke’s own Wellington Gardens contributes directly to plant conservation efforts at local, regional, and national scales. At Ōtari Native Botanic Garden more than 330 species of threatened plants are grown from around Aotearoa, many of these collections contributing to conservation projects across the motu though staff’s horticultural expertise. Some of the plants in the Garden’s care are now extinct in the wild and many are rarer than kakapo.

A recent example of this vital work has been the propagating of the seed of the rare rush Juncus holoschoenus var. holoschoenus which was collected by NIWA staff a few years ago and sent to Ōtari for storage and propagation. Recently, DOC Rangers from Turangi checked on the wild plants and discovered that sadly none remain in the only known wild population. The DOC rangers recently travelled to Ōtari to collect the 64 plants propagated to return them to the frost flat wetlands which they call home.  

Throughout its position statement, the IUCN SSC encourages all government agencies and other entities to strengthen collaborations with botanic gardens, aquariums and zoos to unify efforts to save species from the brink of extinction.


About the IUCN

The IUCN Species Survival Commission is a science-based network encompassing over 9,500 volunteer experts from almost every country in the world.

The entity provides information to IUCN on biodiversity conservation, the inherent value of species, their role in ecosystem health, and their support to human livelihoods. This data is then used to inform the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.