We believe that our visitors care about conservation like we do and for that reason we keep it top of mind every day. We support and participate in a range of projects, locally, nationally, and internationally, providing the opportunity to work with other partners that share our goals and vision.
In October the successful hatching of seven tuatara represented a major step forward towards our goal of having a self-sustaining conservation population of this precious native species. After discovery, the eggs were sent to Victoria University’s Tuatara Recovery Plan facility where they were incubated for five months. The hatchlings, who represent an entirely new bloodline, have now returned to the Zoo.
Over 1,000 students from Wellington schools have participated in our Bush Builders programme to date. Bush Builders is a community based conservation literacy programme where Zoo educators liaise with participating schools and encourage students to discover more about local native flora and fauna. At a time when urban children are increasingly isolated from the natural world, Bush Builders enables them to connect with their natural environment.
This year we continued to work with Forest and Bird on the Places for Penguins project. This initiative is designed to help little blue penguins survive and thrive around the shoreline of Wellington, where the species face challenges due to natural habitat loss, marine pollution and introduced pests on a daily basis. Our role in the work this year has focussed on monitoring the nest boxes that we constructed and placed last year, and surveying new areas of the South Coast for penguin activity.
2010-11 saw three members of the Visitor Engagement team and one Life Science team member volunteer their time with Free the Bears, at the sanctuaries in Cambodia and Vietnam, with their expenses covered by the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund. Zoo staff worked on a variety of projects including interpretive signage, viewing platform signage, entrance signs and sails, editing and development of a visitor guide resource, and animal husbandry.
These trips provided a great opportunity for the Zoo to engage our onsite and online visitors in the conservation work we do – raising the profile of the Zoo along the way. Zoo staff did a great job journaling their trips through blogs and videos that were shared online through the Zoo website and social media streams, as well as through Free the Bears own streams, which have a wide audience from all over the world, especially Australia and the United Kingdom. On their return, staff members were interviewed by major New Zealand media outlets, allowing their story to be spread even further.
Wellington Zoo’s Senior Bird Keeper, was supported by the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund to spend a month on Whenua Hou Codfish Island working with the critically endangered kākāpō. He was part of a team responsible for changing radio transmitters on kākāpō and tracking the birds through the forest. The team also spent nights out in the bush waiting for birds without transmitters to turn up at the feed stations, and helped with health checks of the 121 strong (at that time) kākāpō population.
Last financial year saw the establishment of our own Conservation Fellowship, with support from the Holdsworth Charitable Trust. The Zoo is proud to help facilitate conservation work out in the field, with two projects active in the past year.
The Kea Conservation Trust’s project is nest monitoring and tracking of radio and satellite tagged kea in Nelson Lakes and Arthur’s Pass. The Fellowship funding enabled field staff to check the status of known nest sites in these two areas. Valuable breeding information was also gathered by tracking radio-tagged females to new nest sites. This follow-up monitoring provided a substantially clearer picture of the kea population’s stability and status at each site.
In the future this project will allow the opportunity for Zoo staff to get some direct field experience learning how to track and find nests, and attach bands and transmitters to adult females and chicks (if found).
The other Conservation Fellowship recipient is Victoria University with a project evaluating the success of community restoration: biodiversity and environmental action. The first stage of this project was to measure the success of plantings made by participants in the Wellington City Council programme with the goal of establishing guidelines for better future plant and site selection. Site visits have provided measurements on tree survival and statistical relationships with site and community characteristics.
During the next four months analysis will be completed using site and species characteristics to explain the variation in planting success observed. The information obtained so far means the project is well-placed for the next stage of the work to assess the consequences of planting for biodiversity.
The Nest Te Kōhanga continues to be a hub for injured native species and endangered wildlife. This year saw vets in The Nest Te Kōhanga treat two of New Zealand’s rarest birds – a critically endangered kākāpō and Chatham Island tāiko.
Kākāpō chick Solstice One, one of only 131 kākāpō in the world, was sent to the Zoo from Whenua Hou Codfish Island to be treated for an infection.
Zoo visitors had the once in a lifetime opportunity to see a kākāpō up close at Solstice One’s regular daytime feedings, with many people from Wellington and even further afield making the trip to see her.
After three weeks of treatment Solstice One was returned to Invercargill for quarantine before heading back to Whenua Hou Codfish Island to rejoin the rest of the chicks from this year’s breeding season.
In another success story the only Chatham Island tāiko fledgling to ever be brought to New Zealand’s mainland was also treated at The Nest Te Kōhanga this year. The bird was transferred to Wellington Zoo in May with poor waterproofing which would have made floating impossible. By regular feeding and swimming in the salt water pool at The Nest Te Kōhanga, the chick was encouraged to preen which improved its waterproofing to the point it could be returned to the wild.
The juvenile seabird is one of the world’s rarest bird species with only around 140 of them known to exist. The tāiko was considered extinct until 1978 when a small number were rediscovered on the Chatham Islands.
The chick was treated at The Nest Te Kōhanga for three weeks before being returned to the Chatham Islands for release.
The Nest Te Kōhanga has made a huge contribution to the care of native fauna in the last year, treated 182 native patients brought to the Zoo from local community, DoC and SPCA.
We take every opportunity to enable people to make small changes in their daily lives, making small steps to help with the big picture.
On World Environment Day in June Zoo staff undertook rubbish collection locally at Newtown Park, the town belt, Breaker Bay, and Moa Point. Their dedication to the day resulted in 550 litres of rubbish being collected.
It’s not just our staff that are on a conservation mission. Our kaka have recently begun helping the Greater Wellington Regional Council in its quest to find a possum bait station that is kaka-proof. So far our kaka have tested two stations and have given them the thumbs down as they have been able to get into both.
Zoos produce a lot of organic waste and use a lot of water and energy, but over the past few years the Zoo has implemented a range of sustainability initiatives that have been hugely successful in reducing our consumption of water and power and our production of waste.
The Zoo broke another record this year with the lowest consumption of water on record. We used just 17.2 million litres, a mighty 36% less than last year. The dramatic reduction has been in the most part due to upgrading the water main and all associated valves. This was necessary after discovering significant damage from tree roots. The water main entering the Zoo was also upgraded resulting in higher flow. This has negated the need to run our booster pumps and consequently less water leaves our system no matter how hard the trigger on a hose pipe is pushed! We have also made additions to our rain water system increasing the use of recycled water. The savings gained from this reduction is around $10,000 even after this year’s 15% increase in the cost of water.
This year the Zoo reduced its total waste production by an impressive 25%, and we now send only 17% of the Zoo’s waste to landfill. We have continued to improve in this area through simple steps such as waste separation, recycling, composting, and reviewing the material we use daily in the care of our animals. A change to using lucerne balage from meadow hay, and using less straw resulted in a reduction of 47% of compostable waste needing to leave the Zoo. The added bonus from this was a financial saving of over $5,000. It has been essential to have the commitment of all staff to achieve this, not least of all the efforts by our Grounds Officers who take on the not-so-glamorous job of separating mixed waste.
This year has seen a 6% reduction in power usage. The Zoo team has continued to be conscientious when using power. January and February had some of the lowest usage days on record and weather continues to be a significant factor in our energy usage.