Can you tell us about the history of Orana Wildlife Park and a bit about the park today?
Orana Wildlife Park is New Zealand’s only open range zoo and is home to the country’s only gorillas and orang-utans. Orana was established in 1976 and is owned and operated by Orana Wildlife Trust, a registered charity. Orana specialises in providing amazing animal experiences. Visitors can travel through the Lion Reserve, hand feed majestic giraffe, meet rhino ‘face-to-face’, see cheetah pursue a lure, stroll into walk-through aviaries to meet kakariki, whio, kereru and mischievous kea, and observe our national icon, the kiwi.
Orana is a proud member of ZAA, being a founding member of the Australasian Species Management Program (ASMP). We are delighted to have recently completed the renewal process of the Park’s animal welfare accreditation.
What are some of the conservation or sustainability initiatives at Orana Wildlife Park?
Orana Wildlife Park makes a meaningful contribution to native species conservation and is internationally recognised for its involvement in a number of exotic species breeding programmes. Orana is proud to be involved in Department of Conservation breed for release recovery programmes for endangered NZ species: blue duck (whio), brown teal (pateke) and orange-fronted parakeet – a Nationally Critical Species numbering less than 300 in the wild and found only in Canterbury. The Park is also involved in the captive component of the kiwi recovery programme. Over 90 pateke, 75 whio, 26 kiwi and 7 orange-fronted kakariki from Orana have been released to the wild. Park staff are committed to doing more; our next major capital project will be a new Native Species Centre that will enable our visitors to see much of our conservation work in action, e.g. incubating and hatching whio and kiwi. Most of this work is currently carried out off display, so this new facility will also significantly enhance our advocacy work for native fauna.
We are a proud TARP partner and are in the process of designing a large quarantine facility to enable the project to move forward through the first import of 10 white rhino. With poaching rates out of control in their home range, we are totally committed to playing our role in this project that will be so important for the long term conservation of this iconic species.
Orana has a very broad Engagement Strategy that covers and coordinates the many and varied aspects of our ‘education’ activities. The Park delivers day-long formal education programmes to around 10,000 Canterbury school children each year. These are endorsed and monitored by the Ministry of Education and are linked to conservation actions relevant to the school community. Conservation advocacy is a key role to ensure all visitors feel a connection with and responsibility towards the natural environment. Park visitors are exposed to “take home messages” through daily presentations/exhibit interpretation/QR codes, such as: keeping a dog on a leash to protect kiwi and responsible purchasing (e.g. FSC, CSPO etc). These conservation messages are delivered through an internationally recognised framework: “Connect, Understand, Act”, a model developed to provide zoo visitors with the motivation, understanding and skills necessary to take part in actions that lead to a sustainable lifestyle.
Do you have examples of a good welfare idea you/your team came up with for your animals?
Orana is committed to ensuring positive welfare states for the animals in our care that we are privileged to hold. Some examples of good welfare ideas utilised by our team include:
- A probe pit for South Island Oyster Catchers. The team created a pit within the exhibit, using a mixture of sand, pea gravel and pumice. The team bury insects in the pit to encourage natural foraging behaviour from the birds. The probe pit helps to create natural wearing of the bill, preventing it from becoming over grown.
- Cheetah chase – Orana has a 180m long main cheetah exhibit. The team has modified a greyhound winch to encourage the cats to chase down the exhibit. Previously, the cats have been clocked travelling at nearly 70kph by the NZ Police using their hawk radars. The cheetah chase encourages natural behaviour from the cats plus doubles as a fantastic visitor experience helping to enthuse people about the world’s fastest land mammal.
- Automatic feeder in Kea Habitat – our team designed and built an automatic feeder for inclusion in our walk-through kea aviary. The feeder randomly distributes food for these highly intelligent birds, encouraging foraging behaviour.