Can you tell us a bit about Ngā Manu’s history and the park today?
The Ngā Manu Trust was formed in 1974 with the goal of finding a site where its deed objectives could be put into practice. These were preservation of endemic forest and wildlife, creation of facilities to preserve native animal populations, and promotion of a love and understanding of New Zealand biodiversity.
The Ngā Manu Nature Reserve, in Waikanae was the chosen site, 14 hectare containing a rare remnant of accessible lowland swamp forest, public walk-in aviaries and off-display enclosures. It is visited by around 18.000 people annually and you can also enjoy an overnight stay in Theo’s Cottage.
What are some of the conservation initiatives the park is involved in?
We have been involved in various programmes and projects focused on New Zealand reptiles over the years, but much of this work has occurred “back-of-house” and out of the public eye. Previously, a key partner in a DOC tuatara headstart programme, we have recently become involved in a programme to breed the critically endangered Whitaker’s skink, a local species of lizard thought to now be extinct in the wild. We are also called upon for our holding facilities and expertise for when lizard salvages are undertaken – presently we’re caring for over 900 Northern Grass skink which is possibly the largest salvage to date in New Zealand.
Can you tell us about a good idea you had to support the positive welfare of your animals?
We are involved in the Kiwi Recovery Programme and house 2 pair, one in a public kiwi-house and another off-display. Midway through the year we completed an extensive upgrade to our nocturnal kiwi enclosure which cost over $20,000 – a significant commitment for a small organisation like ours.
We installed a temperature control air conditioning system to keep the ambient temperature down at kiwi-thrive levels, an array of LED lights to enhance the enclosure vegetation, as well as creating a cascade and flowing stream through the environment. We’re well aware that a view of a kiwi is the first priority of most of our overseas visitors, and to unfold that conservation story our birds need to be supported with the best environment we can provide.