We’ve had a very special year in more ways than one. This year 196,267 people visited Wellington Zoo. This was the highest recorded number of visitors for at least the last 45 years. The closest we've come to this record breaking attendance was in 1974-1975 when 196,178 people passed through our gates.
The average number of people that visited us in the September/October holidays was a staggering 930 visitors per day in contrast to the previous year where the recorded average was 542 visitors per day. The average in January 2011 was 881 visitors per days versus 788 visitors in January 2010, an average daily increase of 100 visitors per day.
These outstanding results were despite having the wettest year in the last seven years (118 wet days in 2010-11). August 2010 was also the wettest recorded month in 14 years, but despite that on the last Wednesday of that month we welcomed 3,375 people to the Zoo as part of our $5 Winter Wednesday promotion. Taking part in Wellington’s Open Day in June resulted in another busy ‘standout’ date in our calendar, with 3,736 visitors to the Zoo. This day, organised by Absolutely Positively Wellington, let locals and visitors into the Zoo for a gold coin donation with proceeds going to our Conservation Fund.
2011 is the United Nations International Year of Forests and our visitor events throughout the year have been developed with this in mind. We wanted to help our visitors to understand the role that forests play in their lives.
This year we held 10 special visitor events including our ever popular Children’s Day and Neighbours’ Night celebrations.
We also held special opening celebrations for our Zoo Crew members at The Roost Te Pae Manu, the Mini Monkeys exhibit and the new home of the porcupines and meerkats.
This year has seen the opening of several exciting new exhibits at the Zoo. The African crested porcupines and meerkats moved in together in an exhibit designed and built in-house, located amongst the other African animal exhibits at the Zoo. A South American visitor experience was created for our Mini Monkeys enclosure, home to Emperor tamarins, pygmy marmosets, iguana and agouti. The Roost Te Pae Manu showcases our bird breeding and care, and takes work that was previously behind the scenes into the forefront of visitor experience. In the middle of the Zoo, a new space for playing, eating and resting has been developed with the opening of the Tuck Shop and Kamala’s — an all weather function venue.
At Wellington Zoo we try to get as many of our visitors up close to animals as possible. One of the ways we do this is through our contact animal programme. Across the Zoo over 1,300 hours of contact animal time has happened throughout the year – that is over 3.5 hours per day. Animals that our visitors can get up close to include our dingo pup Wolfrik and Percy his faithful companion dog from the SPCA, goats, cockatoos, rodents and a wide range of reptiles. Three orphaned hedgehogs have been raised and integrated into the programme also.
The smaller animals are on hand to charm their audience at numerous talks and in the learning sessions held in the Living Room. Animal presentations are held daily in the Wild Theatre and continue to attract and engage visitors.
This year saw over 10,000 students from 186 schools visit the Zoo and participate in the Ministry of Education’s Learning Experiences Outside The Classroom (LEOTC) programme. Over half of all Wellington schools have been to the Zoo in the last year and 22% of the schools that visit us are secondary schools.
Our emphasis this year has been on increasing the number of unique animal experiences and using the whole Zoo as a learning space. Teacher satisfaction with the Zoo’s learning programmes remains high, with 98% of teachers reporting that their sessions with the Zoo’s educators met or exceeded their learning objectives.
Despite a completely new learning team being recruited in the second half of the year, we continued to expand our horizons and try new things. We hosted a teachers’ evening during Primary School Science Week, worked with Victoria University on a workshop for primary school art teachers and held our first careers day — letting students in on the many varied careers that a Zoo has to offer.
Over 1,140 children attended our school holiday programme run by Zoo educators this year. For the first time we trialled a programme during the January school holidays, and our Summer Safari was a hit with the kids that attended it.
Since its opening in December 2009, The Nest Te Kōhanga has become a favourite attraction of visitors at Wellington Zoo. In February 2011, we asked our visitors – both on site and online, how they felt about The Nest Te Kōhanga and how they used the facility. This research gave us excellent results in terms of visitor satisfaction, learning outcomes and conservation reputation for the Zoo.
Findings from this research include:
Zoo visitors are impressed by The Nest Te Kōhanga overall, giving high ratings in terms of the top-class care it provides the animals, and how educational, interesting, and informative it is. People enjoy the opportunity to see behind the scenes and watch as Zoo staff treat the animals.
Most people visiting the Zoo go to The Nest Te Kōhanga.
When visiting, most people stay for at least five minutes, and half stay for ten minutes or more. This is exceptional among zoo exhibits worldwide.
The Nest Te Kōhanga makes the vast majority of Zoo visitors feel more positively about Wellington Zoo.
In the year or so it has been open there is little doubt The Nest Te Kōhanga has become a key feature of Wellington Zoo.