Join our zoo community

Auckland Zoo Auckland Zoo Review (January 2022)

Discussion in 'New Zealand' started by Zoofan15, 1 Apr 2022.

  1. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    Auckland Zoo Review (January 2022)


    I visited Auckland Zoo on 04/01/2022 and to celebrate the year of their centenary (1922-2022), I thought I’d write a review of my visit.

    I’ve visited Auckland Zoo many times and it remains my favourite New Zealand zoo due to its modern, world class exhibits; combined with it’s rich history.

    I’ve read many first rate zoo reviews on ZooChat. Most recently the reviews of Taronga Zoo by @WhistlingKite24 and the National Zoo and Aquarium by @akasha, which inspired me to write this review.

    As this wasn’t my first visit, I‘ve taken photos previously of some of the exhibits I mention, which I didn’t retake photos of on this visit. Therefore some of my photos are from previous visits and used merely to illustrate the exhibits described in the review. All photos are my own.

    I’ll be posting this review across multiple posts, so stay tuned.

    Entrance and First Exhibits:

    The entrance to Auckland Zoo is a large courtyard containing the ticket office, information centre and gift shop. It really streamlines the entry process as annual pass holders can bypass the ticket office and enter via a seperate line at the entrance gate.

    Due to Covid restrictions, Auckland Zoo was operating on a one way system on the day of my visit. This meant all visitors were funnelled past the playground to the otter and red panda exhibits. This is my preferred route if I arrive at opening time, as the majority of visitors head for the African precinct; but the one way system forced everyone to join me.

    A Nepalese red panda was in the highest branches of the tree. It’s a fairly small and unimaginative exhibit, with signage boards informing visitors about conservation work in Nepal.

    Next is the Asian small-clawed otter exhibit. The exhibit is set against the backdrop of a stony wall, that was part of the zoo’s original row of exhibits in 1922 - then housing Indian leopard, Bengal tiger and Puma. The zoo’s raft of otters consists of seven brothers born across three litters between May 2019 and September 2020. They make for a highly engaging exhibit and were very active on my visit. The otter exhibit features an underwater viewing window, which offers a decent view of them playing in the water.

    Adjacent to the otter exhibit is the Ring-tailed lemur exhibit. Built on the site of what was once a tiger exhibit in the 1920’s, it later housed Nepalese red panda from the 1990’s into the early 2000’s; and was then converted into a covered Sumatran tiger exhibit in 2006, retaining the original 1922 wall. Since the death of the last tiger in 2019, this exhibit has held Ring-tailed lemurs. The exhibit holds a fraction of the appeal it commanded during the time it housed tigers. Lemurs are a poor choice for this exhibit given the glare of the glass and the ample foliage cover. I couldn’t see them at a glance and quickly moved on.

    Ring-tailed lemur exhibit (formerly held Sumatran tiger)

    Te Puna Cafe:

    Opposite the lemur and otter exhibits is the zoo’s cafe Te Puna, which opened in 2020. It serves up cuisine from Heaven and prices from Hell. The architecture of this building is truly stunning and well deserving of the Auckland Architectural Award it won in 2021. It’s exterior reminds me of the Casson Pavilion (one of my favourite pieces of architecture) and the verandah overlooking the zoo’s historic Central Lake is never more picturesque than when an orangutan is traversing the aerial pathway.

    Te Puna at sunset

    View from verandah of Te Puna

    South East Asian Precinct (Lowlands and Lake/Wetlands):

    Containing down the path is the entrance to the next phase of the South East Asia precinct (Lowlands), which was well on track for completion on my visit. The tiger complex reminds me of London Zoo’s Tiger Territory, with mesh draped over the top of the exhibits; and sheltered viewing windows. It’s built on the site of what opened as a lion pit in 1922 and in its final three decades, housed Sumatran tiger.

    Entrance to South East Asia precinct

    The first tiger exhibit is the smallest (200 m2) and adjoins the night house; as does the largest exhibit (790 m2). These exhibits are connected to the medium sized exhibit (370 m2) via overhead tunnels. The night house is constructed from cinder blocks and features three day rooms and a cubbing den. I liked how the central viewing hut offers a view of the exhibits from multiple angles, maximising your chances of seeing the tigers. I also liked the sensory panels affixed to the viewing glass, which will allow the visitors to smell the tigers.

    New Sumatran tiger exhibit (small) opening mid 2022

    New Sumatran tiger exhibit (medium) opening mid 2022

    New Sumatran tiger exhibit (large) opening mid 2022

    You exit the tiger complex by walking past the new Asian small-clawed otter exhibit, which was still under construction on my visit. A stream running through the length of the sloping exhibit will be the main feature, with one of the tiger’s overhead tunnels passing over the otter exhibit. It’ll be interesting to see whether either of the two species pay attention to the other.

    The South East Asian precinct continues onto the boardwalk which extends across Central Lake (Lake and Wetlands). It’d just opened up on my visit and it was exciting to see the aerial pathway and towers from this vantage point. The aerial pathway consists of 2km of ropes, which link to nine towers around 25m in height. Three of these towers have built in ladders, allowing the apes to climb up and down them. One of these is situated in the centre of the lake and Melur the orangutan, who’d just entered her third trimester, was seeking refuge from the sun inside it when I returned at midday.

    Aerial pathway climbing towers (view from boardwalk)

    The tropical dome, which is halfway along the boardwalk, is progressing nicely. It looks like an impressive building and I’m really looking forward to seeing False gharial in New Zealand for the first time.

    Boardwalk now open

    Tropical dome (opening late 2022)

    In my next post, I’ll cover the remainder of the South East Asian precinct (High Canopy).
  2. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    Continued from Post #1…

    South East Asian Precinct (High Canopy):

    The boardwalk across Central Lake links to the covered viewing area for the Bornean orangutan and Siamang exhibits. Both Siamang were up at the viewing window on my visit.

    Bornean orangutan exhibit - undercover area

    The Siamang exhibit is well planted with trees and bushes. It’s back wall is made from the old orangutan exhibit (1987-2017), which although no doubt done for reasons of cost effectiveness, is a nice historical inclusion of an iconic exhibit in my opinion. The front wall is a modern looking metal mesh fence, painted green.

    Siamang exhibit - note the use of wall from the old orangutan exhibit

    Siamang exhibit - view from undercover viewing area

    Siamang exhibit - note the use of high walls which blocks the visitor’s view in places

    The orangutan exhibit is fronted by the same wall, which is aesthetically pleasing, but can obscure the view of the apes. The exhibit is well planted and a highlight is seeing the orangutans (especially Charlie with his dreadlocks) brachiate across the ropes. Elevated platforms amongst the trees give the orangutans a place to rest.

    Bornean orangutan exhibit

    Bornean orangutan exhibit

    As previously mentioned, three of the towers that link the aerial ropes have an internal ladder that the apes can use to climb up and down them. One of these is in the orangutan exhibit and they use this point to begin the aerial pathway. On my visit, Melur chose to ascend the tower; followed by Charlie, who goes everywhere she goes.

    Aerial pathway climbing towers

    Aerial pathway climbing towers

    Wanita chose to remain in the exhibit and writing this, I realise this was the last time I saw Wanita. She arrived at Auckland Zoo in March 2001 and was a dominant and fiery female, who was well respected by her fellow apes. Wanita was considered the most dangerous orangutan in the colony, with only the most experienced keepers being allowed to train her via one on one sessions. She was also New Zealand’s only hybrid orangutan.

    I was pleased to note the zoo had finally got rid of that stupid jungle track pathway (a chalky white paste that coated your shoes) and had replaced it with a textured concrete path.

    Old Red Panda Exhibit:

    Concluding the South East Asian precinct is the off display Nepalese red panda exhibit. You can still look up at the trees to catch a glimpse of the red pandas or look over the fence screening it off.

    I particularly like this exhibit as it’s a renovated bear pit built in 1922. It was divided into two around the 1950’s to house an additional species of bear in the exhibit and the wall remains in place to this day. The zoo have demolished several historic exhibits of late including the aviary, another bear pit and the lion pit (all built in 1922), so I’m hoping this exhibit is retained at least.

    Off display Nepalese red panda exhibit

    In my next post, I’ll cover the Coast and the African precinct.
  3. Abbey

    Abbey Well-Known Member

    1 Aug 2020
    Thank you for this review. I've never been to Auckland Zoo, but would love to go to New Zealand one day. Certainly seems like it includes fantastic habitats for the animals and visitors alike.
    steveroberts and Zoofan15 like this.
  4. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    You’re very welcome!

    You may be pleased to know I’m only just getting started. I originally intended to review it all in a single post, but the site’s photo limit restricts me to 10 images per post, so I’ll be posting it over a few posts.

    The next post will cover the New Zealand precinct; followed by the African precinct and the elephants. Then I have the Australian and South American precincts, as well as Reptile Row to shoehorn in somewhere.

    I will conclude the review with a final debrief and species list.
    steveroberts, Zorro and Abbey like this.
  5. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    Continued from Post #2…

    New Zealand Precinct (the Coast, High Country and Wetlands):

    The New Zealand precinct is comprised of six habitats: the Coast, the High Country, the Wetlands, the Night, the Forest and the Islands. I only visited the first three habitats as some of the New Zealand precinct was closed on my visit due to Covid such as the nocturnal house (building capacity limits).

    The Coast opened in 2001 (a decade prior to the opening of the New Zealand precinct) and was formerly known as Sea Lion and Penguin Shores. You enter via a pathway which passes under a replica of a Pygmy blue whale skeleton.

    The Coast - replica of a Pygmy blue whale skeleton

    The main exhibit consists of large pool, with an underwater viewing window. It was originally built for California sea lions; but now houses a Subantarctic fur seal - the sole survivor of a quartet of fur seals rescued as pups from New Zealand beaches in the mid 2000’s. The others have since passed away.

    The Coast - Subantarctic fur seal pool

    I was surprised to learn the zoo plans to phase out pinnipeds and will not be receiving more. The exhibit has aged well, even if the fur seals have never been as engaging as the sea lions. The keeper I spoke to said no decision has been made on the fate of the exhibit, but joked she’d like it for the penguins. Auckland Zoo has held pinnipeds since the 1920’s, with their original pool still in use up until this exhibit opened in 2001. It was repurposed as a waterfowl pond and stood for another decade until it was demolished for the construction of other areas of the New Zealand precinct.

    The Coast - Subantarctic fur seal underwater viewing window

    The Coast features a smaller exhibit adjacent to the main pool, which houses Little blue penguins. The penguins can usually be found huddled under an overturned dingy (boat) as they were on my visit; or swimming in their pool. The Coast is designed so you view the seal from above the water; pass through the penguin exhibit; and conclude with the seal’s underwater viewing window.

    The Coast - Little blue penguin pool

    The High Country consists of a walk through aviary for Kea, which features an impressive rock face the alpine parrots enjoy climbing. The Kea are highly interactive and one bounded along the visitor path as people gathered around to photograph it. The High Country also features outdoor tanks housing Otago skink and Grand skink; as well as viewing hut for an aviary containing Takahe, Blue duck, Orange-fronted parakeet and New Zealand bellbird. This aviary was closed on my visit.

    The High Country - Blue duck viewing hut and aviary

    The High Country - Otago skink tank

    The High Country - Grand skink tank

    The Wetlands is a small aviary with a pond containing water fowl. It’s a fraction of the size of Hamilton Zoo’s wetlands exhibit, yet is cleaner and contains more species. Australasian shoveler, Grey teal, New Zealand scaup and Pied stilt inhabit this exhibit.

    The Wetlands - aviary

    Outside the Wetlands aviary is a tank housing New Zealand long fin eel, of which the zoo reportedly has 11 (I didn’t have the time or the inclination to count them).

    In my next post, I’ll cover the elephants and African precinct.
    steveroberts, Antoine, akasha and 5 others like this.
  6. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    Continued from Post #5…

    African Precinct (Lower Exhibits) and Elephants:

    The African precinct begins with a boardwalk leading around the Serval exhibit. The exhibit opened in 2004 and still looks remarkably new. The open air aspect and lush planting make it an attractive exhibit and a vast improvement on the series of cages they previously inhabited. My only criticism is the inability to seperate the Serval while on exhibit, meaning only one could be on display at a time. This is a moot point since the male has recently died, reducing them to a nine year old female. She has two nesting spots, which she uses when not patrolling her exhibit.

    Shani - female Serval

    The Waterhole is viewable from the boardwalk that continues from the Serval exhibit. It opened as a Common hippopotamus exhibit in 1999, before being converted into an extension of the Southern white rhinoceros exhibit when the last hippos died in 2016. While picturesque in appearance, the extension adds little value to the visitor experience as the ungulates rarely utilise this end of the exhibit, preferring to remain up the other end. On my visit, a female Waterbuck was visible on the horizon. My preference would have been to convert the exhibit into one for Pygmy hippopotamus given it’s small size makes it unsuitable for the Common hippopotamus it was built to house by today’s standards.

    Waterhole expansion - a typically quiet day

    Emerging from the Waterhole viewing shelter is the Hamadryas baboon exhibit, which opened as a Chacma baboon exhibit in 1999. Since 2009, it’s housed Hamadryas baboon which always make for a engaging exhibit due to a succession of infants over the years. A large hill in the middle of the exhibit meant the baboons could once be viewed from the rear of the exhibit and provided something to look at from the path below as they walked over the hill; but now this path no longer exists, the hill only serves to obscure the visitor view from the designated viewing platforms. Fortunately the size of the troop means there’s usually at least one one male unit in the vicinity while the others gather around the summit of the hill.

    Hamadryas baboon exhibit - large hill out of view to right

    The Cheetah exhibit is small and unimaginative, despite being one of the more recent addition to the African precinct (opening in 2005). It’s fronted by a glass viewing window with grass covering the floor space. While not as impressive as Hamilton or Orana’s exhibits, it’s size is justifiable by the Cheetah being taken for regular walks around the zoo, which is hugely enriching for them.

    Cheetah exhibit

    A one way route took me past the flamingo exhibit, with a volunteer standing guard to ensure people didn’t backtrack or disrupt the nesting flamingos. The Greater flamingo exhibit opened in 2001 with a flock of 20 flamingos imported from the United Kingdom and is a notable attraction given they’re the only flock held in Australasia. Several chicks have hatched since 2014 and Auckland Zoo is the first zoo in the world to breed from an entirely hand-raised flock. The exhibit itself hasn’t aged well and as the flock has grown, it’s beginning to looked cramped. The zoo spoke of a new flamingo aviary in their masterplan, so hopefully this will still be considered.

    Greater flamingo exhibit

    On my visit, I was excited to see a newly chick that was being tended to by Cole, who hatched at the zoo himself in 2017. The nesting site functions as a crèche with several birds tending to eggs on my visit. Decoy eggs represented fertile eggs being incubated (before being replaced immediately prior to hatching), but sadly no further chicks hatched that season. The nesting site had been partially screened off in comparison to my last visit, which was annoying with multiple people trying to view the new chick; but I’m glad the flock’s welfare was given first consideration.

    Cole in the crèche area with a newly hatched chick

    The elephant exhibit is in the middle of the African precinct, off to the side. The exhibit opened in 1992 and consists of a large flat field with a pool, connected to the elephant’s night house. The exhibit isn’t especially imaginative, but is an adequate size - even by today’s standards for 2-3 cows.

    Asian elephant exhibit with grandstand in background

    The elephants are always a huge drawcard for visitors, especially following the announcement of their phase out this month. Keeper talks often see the adjoining grandstand packed with people and the surrounding path across from the dry moat is always crowded with people taking photos. A large crate was in the middle of the exhibit for the purpose of crate training the elephants for export on my visit, with a high pressure hose providing both enrichment and relief from the summer sun.

    Burma is an elephant I’ve visited since childhood and it’s been exciting to see Anjalee, the region’s first and only Sri Lankan elephant since her import in 2015. While I’m sad to see them go, I’m glad they’ll have a exciting future ahead of them in Australia and agree the decision was in their best interests. It was good to see them at Auckland Zoo one last time before their export, especially knowing New Zealand will likely never again exhibit elephants.

    Anjalee throwing sand

    Their exhibit is set to be refurbished for the use of Southern white rhinoceros, which is a disappointing revelation considering the zoo already exhibits this species. The exhibit will adjoin the existing rhino exhibit and serve as an extension with the herd expanding through the birth of another calf later this year.

    In my next post, I’ll cover the rest of the African precinct (upper exhibits).
  7. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    Continued from Post #6…

    African Precinct (Upper Exhibits and Aviary):

    Across from the picnic area and Waterhole Cafe is the continuation of the Southern white rhinoceros exhibit. They share their exhibit with Waterbuck and Lowland nyala, all of which are most commonly sighted at the upper end of the paddock. It’s nice to see the zoo building up a cohesive herd of rhinos and they’ve integrated seamlessly with the other ungulates.

    The African lion exhibit is viewable from multiple vantage points across a wide moat; and also features a covered viewing window. The exhibit opened in 1999 and while it looks fresh, courtesy of its lush planting, it’s not a large exhibit by modern standards.

    African lion exhibit

    Instead of extending the Savannah into the elephant exhibit and merging them into an integrated series of interlocking exhibits; I’d prefer to see the current rhino exhibit converted into a second lion exhibit, linked to the first via overhead tunnels. This would allow the zoo to manage a large price and with this species being one of the zoo’s biggest drawcards, allow them to showcase these cats in a world class complex.

    The African aviary is a large walk through aviary with several nest boxes for Masked lovebird. A tree planted in the centre of the exhibit is a favourite roosting point for these birds.

    African aviary (view from boardwalk)

    African aviary - lovebird tree

    To the right is a glass fronted exhibit for Leopard tortoise, featuring a crèche hosing several hatchlings. Auckland Zoo has an extensive history of breeding this species - with the first of many hatching in January 2005.

    Leopard tortoise

    An open air exhibit with high glass Perspex walls houses a small colony of Slender-tailed meerkat. The exhibit had built in tunnels that kids can crawl through and view the meerkats face to face. This concept was based on the similar network of tunnels that were so popular in the previous meerkat exhibit (1991-2016) but don’t have the same impact. The tunnels are short, little more than a cramped passageway to an obscured viewing window; and lack the appeal of the extensive network of tunnels that led through multiple indoor and outdoor exhibits in the previous complex. Though I’ll admit as a kid, part of the adventure was knowing you were crawling through the remnants of an old bear pit.

    Exiting the aviary is a second meerkat exhibit. The exhibit is smaller, but well presented and the meerkats are always highly engaging, patrolling the lower reaches of the exhibits while others make use of the rocky terrain to maintain sentry duty. As with the previous complex, a second exhibit gives Auckland Zoo the ability to manage multiple groups of this species versus most zoos which have a single exhibit of non breeding meerkats. There’s supposedly an African crested porcupine in this exhibit, but I’ve never seen it.

    Smaller meerkat exhibit

    The main Savannah exhibit is the facade of the African precinct and prior to Covid, began the main route around the zoo. The exhibit is spacious and easily accommodates the small herds of giraffe and zebra. The zoo holds a quartet of generic Plains zebra, which is a disappointing comparison to the small Grant’s zebra herd I saw there as a child, that herd being the last remnants of a once thriving breeding herd founded in 1963. The ungulates share the exhibit with ostrich, which are usually seen around the watering hole which was constructed as part of a refurbishment in the late 2010’s.

    Savannah exhibit

    Giraffe night house and yards

    In my next post, I’ll cover Lizard Lane and the South American precinct.
  8. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    Continued from Post #7…

    South American Precinct (Lizard Lane and Entrance):

    Lizard Lane is a series of exhibits that have been at the zoo for a number of years and featured in the early episodes of The Zoo as a point of interest to the then free ranging Cotton-top tamarins. Lizard Lane is can be viewed on route to the South American precinct (though it’s otherwise a a geographical outlier).

    Lizard Lane consists of exhibits housing Coastal bearded dragon, Eastern blue-tongue skink, Jackson’s chameleon, Cunningham’s skink and Scheltopusik (Glass lizard).

    Lizard Lane

    Coastal bearded dragon and Eastern blue-tongue skink

    The South American precinct begins with the recently constructed bird training stage. Daily presentations are given here, with macaws and lorikeets the most frequently used species in demonstrations. It replaces the lawn space outside the 1922 aviary, which was sadly demolished a few years ago.

    South American bird training stage

    The Galapagos tortoise house is behind the training stage and has undergone a refurbishment in recent years, allowing the zoo to house 2.2 Galapagos giant tortoises (one of their males was previously loaned to Ti Point Reptile Park). The return of the second male has been invaluable to the breeding programme as a stimulant to the breeding male and several clutches of eggs have been laid.

    The most exciting addition to the tortoise house is that of a crèche to house Galapagos tortoise hatchlings. The five hatchlings (four hatched January 2021 and one hatched November 2021) represent a significant zoological achievement given they’re the first hatchlings of this species in a New Zealand zoo to survive to 12 months of age.

    Galapagos giant tortoise outdoor exhibit

    Galapagos giant tortoise crèche

    Within the South American precinct are two buildings of historical significance. The first is the Elephant House (opened 1923), which is now a restaurant and function centre; and the second is the Giraffe House (opened 1925), which now serves as the entrance to the rainforest trail. It houses Andean stripe knee and Bolivian blue-legged tarantula (though I only saw one of these on my visit).

    Elephant House (1923); now the Elephant House Cafe

    Giraffe House (1925); now the entry to the Rainforest

    In my next post, I’ll cover the remainder of the South American precinct (Rainforest and Tropics).
  9. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    Continued from Post #8…

    South American Precinct (Rainforest and Tropics):

    The Rainforest opened in 1996 and is looking dated. A mixed species exhibit for Capybara and Black-capped squirrel monkeys features a riverbank at the front of the exhibit and a dense forest of trees. It’s previously housed macaques and otters.

    Capybara and Black-capped squirrel monkey

    The Golden-lion tamarin have a spacious open air exhibit, which still allows visitors a decent view of them. With two young tamarins in the group (the zoo’s first successful breeding of this species), it’s always a lively and engaging exhibit.

    Golden-lion tamarin

    Across the boardwalk is an empty exhibit, vacated by the Siamang when they took up residence in the South East Asia precinct. The overhead netting has been removed and staff have begun clearing the floor space by removing the trees and ropes that once filled this exhibit. It’s a stark contrast to the active exhibit this once was - with a total of seven infants born to their original breeding pair throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s.

    The Black-handed spider monkeys troop live in a spacious exhibit that’s arguably the main feature of the South American trail. An island is situated in the middle of a small lake that was built from the remnants of the old elephant pool. It’s exciting to think the water the monkeys hang from ropes to drink is the area where the zoo’s elephants throughout the decades once waded - beginning with Jamuna and Rajah; and ending with Kashin and Burma.

    Black-handed spider monkey exhibit

    One has to wonder what memories, Burma, who was often walked around the zoo in the years that followed has of this area and the adjacent elephant house she once lived in.

    One of the things I like about the South American precinct is the stone bridges that cross the creek below. They were part of the original foundations of the zoo and give the precinct a historical vibe.

    The Cotton-top tamarins have an average sized open air exhibit, which is an improvement on the usual greenhouse style exhibit seen in other New Zealand zoos (for climate reasons). With several young born within their colony, there’s always lots of activity.

    Cotton-top tamarin exhibit

    Past the exhibits for Emperor tamarin and Green iguana is the boardwalk leading to the American alligator exhibits. What American alligators are doing in a South American precinct, I don’t know; but if I can tolerate Hamilton Zoo exhibiting Indian antelope in their African Savannah exhibit, I can overlook this.

    The American alligators have two exhibits, a small one and a large one, each housing a female alligator. The exhibits have a swamp theme and are well presented. An interesting addition to the boardwalk on my visit was that of an alligator skeleton. Apparently one of the females died a few years ago and her skeleton now lies in this box for all to appreciate her anatomy.

    Small American alligator exhibit

    Skeleton of American alligator (Georgia)

    In my next post, I’ll cover the Australian precinct.
    Abbey, steveroberts, akasha and 3 others like this.
  10. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    Continued from Post #9…

    Australian Precinct:

    The Australian precinct begins with two reasonable sized exhibits for Tasmanian devil. The exhibits are well planted and one features a stream running through the exhibit. A highlight on this visit was seeing the Tasmanian devil wading in the water. They’re usually difficult to see on similarly hot days as they seek shelter from the sun and the exhibit is less exposed than Wellington Zoo’s.

    Tasmanian devil exhibit

    Tasmanian devil wading in the stream

    Next to one of the Tasmanian devil exhibits is an enclosure housing the zoo’s elderly male Brolga. He can often be found patrolling the boundary of the exhibit and it’s easy to get a close view.

    Brolga in older exhibit

    A small plaza contains a micro habitat for a male Sulfur-crested cockatoo named Captain. He arrived at the zoo in 1990, along with a female named Darling (now deceased). His favourite place is a hollow tree branch in which he can climb in and out of as he would in the wild.

    Sulfur-crested cockatoo habitat

    Due to Covid, the indoor Australian Waterways and aviary was closed but otherwise features exhibits for Red-tailed black cockatoo, Diamond dove, Crested pigeon, Turquoise parrot, Gouldian finch, Cockatiel, Australian snake-necked turtle, Eastern water dragon and rainbow fish.

    Australian Waterways exhibit

    A passageway leads past exhibits for Lace monitor, Goliath stick insect, Redback spider and Flat huntsman spider into the Australian Aviary.

    The Australian aviary houses Musk lorikeet, Rainbow lorikeet, Crested pigeon, Masked lapwing and Australia zebra finch.

    Australian aviary

    Crested pigeon

    The highlight of the Australian precinct for me is the new Brolga exhibit. It opened in 2020 and is spacious and well represented. It houses the zoo’s breeding pair (also the only breeding pair in New Zealand). The Brolga exhibit is part of the wallaby walkthrough; with an exhibit on the other side housing Emu and Red-necked wallaby.

    New Brolga exhibit


    Summary and full species list coming:

    In my final post, I’ll post a summary and discussion of my visit to Auckland Zoo.

    This will be followed by full species list. Stay tuned!
    Abbey, akasha, steveroberts and 5 others like this.
  11. Matt_C

    Matt_C Well-Known Member

    3 Aug 2021
    In all my visits I never noticed the brolga next to the tasmanian devil's!
    steveroberts and Zoofan15 like this.
  12. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    Yeah, he’s the elderly male (1982) that was previously part of a successful breeding pair until the death of his mate (1991-2020). They produced several chicks, two of which are in a breeding pair in the main exhibit exhibit that opened in 2020.

    Hopefully they’re successful in breeding soon, as they’re the only pair in the country and we can’t import more. Hamilton never had any luck with them, so fingers crossed the change of scenery does them good.
  13. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    This is Part One of my summary on Auckland Zoo, discussing the changes in recent decades; Part Two will focus on the direction of the zoo into the future.

    Summary (Part One)

    Changes to the Zoo since the 2000’s:

    I’ve been visiting Auckland Zoo since the 2000’s and the zoo has evolved so much during this time.

    By the 2000’s, exhibits were starting to be arranged in accordance with themes e.g. the Rainforest (Siamang, South American monkeys and tarantula); the Primate Trail (orangutans, chimpanzee and lemur); and Sea Lion and Penguin Shores (California sea lion and Little blue penguin).

    Arrangement by geographical zones was still a novelty to New Zealand zoos and was found only (more by coincidence than design) in the zoo’s Pridelands precinct, which was built in stages from 1998 - appealing to the public who associated it with the Lion King (1994) and the Lion King II (1998).

    The 2010’s were a period of immense change for the zoo as a clear sense of direction saw them outline precincts arranged by geography.

    The New Zealand precinct opened in 2011; followed by the start of construction of the South East Asian precinct in 2017, which has been the zoo’s biggest project to date - costing $60 million and taking up a fifth of the zoo.

    During this time, existing exhibits have been refurbished e.g. the Wallaby Walkthrough and the Sea Lion and Penguin shores and new exhibits built adjacent to them to create an Australian and South American precinct respectively; while the Pridelands precinct received the addition of an aviary and the rebranding as the African precinct.

    The creation of the new precincts required the demolition of several exhibits which has been at the zoo since it opened in 1922 including a bear pit which had been refurbished for meerkats in 1991, the lion pit which had housed Sumatran tigers since 1998, the disused sea lion pool and the aviary; as well as the Common hippopotamus exhibit built in 1982; the adjacent paddocks, which had most recently housed Llama; and the old orangutan exhibits.

    As someone who’s fascinated by zoological architecture and history, it was a great shame to see some of these exhibits demolished; though I’m pleased they’ve been replaced with exhibits that are truly world class and offer the animals a better quality of life. In some incidences, historical features have been retained e.g. the wall from the old orangutan exhibit (1987) now forms the back wall of the new Siamang exhibit.

    Phase Outs vs New Species:

    There have been a number of phase outs over the past two decades. Losses include Common hippopotamus, Common chimpanzee, Chacma baboon, Temminck’s golden cat, Llama, Bonnet macaque, Red kangaroo, California sea lion and New Zealand fur seal.

    Later this month, we’ll lose Indian elephant - a species held at the zoo since 1923; while it’s also been revealed the zoo will phase out pinnipeds upon the death of the elderly Subantarctic fur seal.

    New species during this time include Cheetah, Greater flamingo, Lowland nyala, Tasmania devil, Hamadryas baboon, Black-capped squirrel monkey and African crested porcupine and Emperor tamarin.

    Arguably, the phase outs have been balanced by the new species acquired. In some cases, it’s even been a direct swap with Hamadryas baboon occupying the former Chacma baboo exhibit; though it should be noted that a number of the phase outs are high profile species - elephants, hippos, sea lions, chimps etc.
    Abbey, akasha, steveroberts and 4 others like this.
  14. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    Summary (Part 2)

    In planning for the future, Auckland Zoo would do well to consider three importance of star attractions and points of difference.

    Star attractions:

    After the phase out of the elephants this month, Auckland Zoo’s star attractions will be their big cats and their orangutans. These are the animals a decent percentage of visitors know by name and are the most excited to see.

    The zoo has wisely invested in world class infrastructure to exhibit their Sumatran tigers and Bornean orangutans. This heightens the visitor experience and allows them to engage with the experience on a more meaningful level.

    The African lions are not currently meeting their potential. The zoo had a pride of three lionesses, who are most commonly found asleep under a log. The average visitor rarely gets a decent view of them, doesn’t spend long at their exhibit and doesn’t know their names. A common visitor complaint is that the zoo hasn’t got a male lion.

    The lack of activity in the lion exhibit is nothing new. After the hype of two litters of cubs in 2001 and 2004, the pride of adults was rarely active on my visits; but the males were nonetheless an impressive sight and the preferred sleeping spot was on grass bank in the sun, where visitors could at least see them.

    Going forward, Auckland Zoo should look at investing in their infrastructure to exhibit lions. Expanding the Savannah will do nothing to bring in extra visitors and do little to enhance the zoo experience. Much of the exhibit will go unused as the current waterhole (old hippo exhibit) is now.

    It would have been far preferable to have seen the zoo expand their lion facilities into the Savannah space, with the rhinos taking up residence in the elephant exhibit when they depart. A second lion exhibit could have been created with tunnels (either below or above ground) linking to the existing lion exhibit. This would allow the zoo to expand their pride and generate a better engagement between the animals and the public, who currently just view them from a distance under a log.

    Points of difference:

    On a national level, Auckland Zoo’s points of difference include both their world class infrastructure and species they have that other New Zealand zoos lack. Current examples include Bornean orangutan, Greater flamingo, Galapagos giant tortoise and pinnipeds.

    Phasing out the pinnipeds is inadvisable in my opinion. The zoo has already lost hippos and is phasing out elephants. Since I was a child, everyone I’ve spoken to agrees Auckland Zoo is better than Hamilton Zoo because they could see those species - and by doing away with them, they’re levelling the playing field.

    Auckland Zoo’s investment in the South East Asia precinct is sensible as it highlights the Bornean orangutan as well as featuring a tropical dome - infrastructure that’s unique to a New Zealand zoo. The False gharial will be an exciting addition to the precinct and a notable point of difference for the zoo.

    The Greater flamingo flock is a point of different; not just nationally, but regionally. However, like the lions, they’re poorly displayed. The exhibit is cramped and the view limited in places. Visitor engagement isn’t what it could be.

    The zoo referenced plans to build a walk through flamingo aviary almost a decade ago, but nothing has come of this. This would also have been a better choice imo than expanding the Savannah - with a board walk leading through a spacious aviary; with a dedicated incubation room (viewable to visitors through a window) proving an exciting opportunity to build on the phenomenal achievements the zoo has had with this flock.

    Typical of most zoos, Auckland Zoo play their cards close to their chest and are yet to outline any major new additions to their collection beyond the False gharial due to arrive later this year. Needless to say, new species are always popular and the zoo should be mindful of what an asset unique species such as the Mandrill and Sri Lankan leopard could potentially be in continuing to draw in visitors and maintain the zoo’s popularity.

    This summary concludes my review of Auckland Zoo. Thank you to everyone for reading and stay tuned for a full species list.
    Aa add
  15. Zorro

    Zorro Well-Known Member

    2 Jan 2017
    West of the black stump
    Excellent review well done!
  16. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
  17. steveroberts

    steveroberts Well-Known Member

    7 Oct 2016
    Sydney, NSW, Australia
    @Zoofan15 Incredible photos bro, absolutely brilliant
    Patrick Keegan, Zoofan15 and Zorro like this.
  18. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    Thanks guys. I hope this and the accompanying species list will be a useful insight into the zoo for those who’ve never been before; or don’t get to visit as often as they’d like to. :)
  19. Abbey

    Abbey Well-Known Member

    1 Aug 2020
    Thank you for such a comprehensive review of Auckland Zoo. As I think I've mentioned before, I've only ever seen the zoo via photographs and The Zoo TV series, but your review almost makes me feel like I've visited.

    I was very intrigued by your reference to Auckland formerly having free-ranging Cotton-Top Tamarins. Would you know when this was and how this worked?
    steveroberts, Zorro and Zoofan15 like this.
  20. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

    7 Mar 2015
    New Zealand
    Thanks @Abbey! I hoped people would find it useful.

    Auckland Zoo is a great zoo and has such a rich and fascinating history.

    The Cotton-top tamarins were on Season 2 of The Zoo, which was filmed over 1999-2000. It was a brief segment which featured a keeper rounding them up at the end of day, chasing them along wooden beams. It was mentioned they’d probably headed down to Reptile Row, which was nearby.
    steveroberts and Abbey like this.