Recovery & resilience for zoos & aquariums in 2020


No one needs us to repeat what a crazy, tough year it’s been. We don’t think anyone will be too sad to see 2020 go and a fresh, new year begin!

Zoos and aquariums have certainly had it tough with major lockdowns across Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. But just because we were in lockdown didn’t mean animals didn’t still need to be fed and cared for. Despite the challenges, it’s been a great chance to see some shining examples of resilience and appreciate the silver linings this year.

For National Aquarium of New Zealand, 2020 has been a year full of challenge! Closure of their facility for seven weeks showed the adaptability of the team who leapt into action, whether it was the animal team working doing essential work onsite, or the Education team producing loads of exciting online content to engage everyone at home. 

They learnt to adapt their programming for those visitors who simply can’t get in to visit anymore, like their Virtual Penguin Encounters. Plus, they continued to show this adaptability in the face of changing Alert Levels, doing their bit, which included a great new line of marine-themed face masks!


National Aquarium of New Zealand team wearing their marine themed COVID-19 masks

The Australian Reptile Park team delivered online keeper talks during lockdown

The Australian Reptile Park team delivered online keeper talks during lockdown

Excited visitors returned to Hamilton Zoo post COVID-19 lockdown in NZ

Like most zoos, the Australian Reptile Park in NSW had to close its doors to visitors throughout April and May to do their bit to stop the spread of COVID-19. During the closure, they put together a schedule of daily educational live streams and launched ‘Animal Tales with Tim Faulkner’.

Coupled with educational resources for parents to download at home, the videos were a huge success, with children from around the country tuning in and working on home assigned to them by Tim Faulkner! Since reopening in June, they’ve had wonderful support from the local community and are looking forward to welcoming back our international visitors when borders reopen.

Following the alert level four lockdown in New Zealand, Hamilton Zoo reopened with a focus on providing a safe, open space where people felt comfortable to visit while observing restrictions. It has been heart-warming to see over 30% increased patronage thanks to the outpouring of support from our local community and domestic travellers.


The new koala joey providing some hope at National Zoo And Aquarium in Canberra

New otter pups at National Zoo And Aquarium in Canberra

The team at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary delivered online learning programs during lockdown in QLD

The team at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary delivered online learning programs during lockdown in QLD

The National Zoo & Aquarium in Canberra has had an exciting year with some very adorable arrivals! They welcomed Koala Joey Namadgi and Otter pups Chester, Basil and Josey to their zoo family. They are the first of their species to be born at the zoo and it has been incredibly rewarding to staff after such a difficult year! On top of that, they are proud to still be able to contribute to their local and international conservation programs, as well as causes close to their hearts such as the bushfires.

During the COVID lockdown in QLD, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary launched a series of online education programs via their Facebook page and YouTube channel, as a free resource for teachers, students and parents to stay connected and engaged with the wonderful world of wildlife. Their three ‘Discovery Sessions’ were all linked to the Australian Science Curriculum, and covered a range of topics including adaptations, habitats and life styles, and suitable for lower-primary students.

Each program was wrapped up by a live Q&A session with Education Officer, Kayla, allowing students the chance to ask all of their animal questions! Their programs are still available on both Facebook and YouTube, for anyone who would still like to access the resource as a teaching tool.