Conservation and Research projects

At Wellington Zoo we support a number of conservation and research projects both at the Zoo (ex situ) and in the field (in situ).

Grand and Otago skinks

Wellington Zoo, in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DoC), is housing and caring for three pairs each of grand and Otago skinks – some of New Zealand’s rarest lizards. We hope that these skinks will breed to create a larger insurance population to conserve them for years to come. Our partnership with DoC allows Zoo staff to gain valuable field experience by monitoring wild skinks in their natural North Otago habitat.

Grand and Otago skinks are two of New Zealand’s rarest reptiles, estimated to remain in just 8% of their natural habitat and under increasing threat from predators. With no further protection in the wild, these species are predicted to become extinct within the next 10 years. The Department of Conservation has been working on grand and Otago skink recovery in Central Otago for several years. The decision was made in early 2007 to create an insurance population of both species in captivity, to ensure survival of genetic diversity of the skinks into the next decade.

Brothers Island Tuatara

For just over six years, Wellington Zoo was the guardian of 53 Brothers Island tuatara – the rarest sub-species of New Zealand’s living dinosaur. Incubated and hatched at Victoria University of Wellington, the tuatara came to us in 2001 and were raised and cared for, off display, at the Zoo. In October 2007 the tuatara were released onto Long Island in the Marlborough Sounds, in conjunction with Victoria University, the Department of Conservation and Te Ati Awa, in hopes of establishing an insurance population for this rare reptile.

Other research projects undertaken by Zoo staff include:

  • Kakapo vaccination 05/06: veterinary project: DoC asked us to help with the vaccination of all kakapo after an outbreak of Erysipelotrix rhusiopathiae (bacterium). Wellington Zoo staff went to Codfish Island and vaccinated and took blood samples from over 20 birds.
  • Kea respiratory research 04/05: veterinary research project: First publication of chronic cystic pulmonary disease in a Kea together with Dr B Gartrell of Massey University. CT scans at Pacific Radiology helped make the diagnosis.
  • New Zealand fur seal Jan 08: veterinary conservation project: Landcare Research asked us to perform the veterinary work on the Fur seals. 64 animals were caught and assessed by the vet team of the Zoo in January 2008.
  • New Zealand sea lion 06 ongoing: veterinary conservation project: ongoing project with DoC in which we support them by providing the veterinary staff to anaesthetise sea lions and conduct health exams.
  • Oral vaccination of exotic birds against salmonella strain May 08: Veterinary research: world first large scale vaccination of exotic birds with salmonella vaccine. Research trial into the efficacy of the vaccination by one of our vet residents.