Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch is the only place in New Zealand to see gorillas up close. Photo / Kim Free
As marketing and visitor services manager at Orana Wildlife Park, Nathan Hawke gets to spend each day with some of the country’s coolest creatures. Here, he talks about conservation programmes, must-see exhibits and future plans for the park.
Orana Wildlife Park is the only major zoo in the South Island and NZ’s only open-range wildlife park. We care for more than 1000 animals representing 90 different species, many of which are critically endangered. Orana specialises in connecting people with wildlife and motivating visitors to care about the plight of endangered species here and around the world.
Our top three must-do activities would have to be meeting New Zealand’s only gorillas, handfeeding giraffes, (and seeing Jasiri, the six-month-old calf), and encountering native birds and reptiles, including kiwi, kea, tuatara and colourful geckos.
Visitors can also eyeball the magnificent white rhino, and enjoy the antics of lions, tigers, cheetah, Tasmanian devils, friendly farmyard creatures, meerkats and more.
Orana operates as a charitable trust, generating more than 80 per cent of its income from visits. We are also passionate about getting visitors involved in conservation efforts, such as keeping a dog on a leash to protect adult kiwi, and recycling mobile phones to help gorilla conservation.
We feel absolutely privileged to have some of NZ’s most precious and unique species in our care, and to be able to contribute to Department of Conservation recovery programmes for some of NZ’s most threatened wildlife. This includes breeding whio/blue duck and kākāriki karaka, NZ’s rarest parakeet, for release to the wild.
We also play an important role in contributing to international breeding programmes for endangered exotic species, like NZ’s only addax, a species of antelope on the verge of extinction.
My top tip for visitors would be to check out the park’s feed presentations, which are on from 10.45am-3.45pm daily. We also have an annual pass, which means people can visit the zoo every day for a whole year.
As a registered charity, Orana raises 100 per cent of funds for capital projects to enhance the zoo. In terms of future projects, our team is really excited to be constructing a $1.6 million Southern White Rhino Conservation Centre, as part of a global effort to help prevent extinction of the species.
For more information and to plan a visit, check out oranawildlifepark.co.nz, or follow Orana Wildlife Park on Facebook.
For more travel inspiration, go to newzealand.com/nz.
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