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Willowbank Wildlife Reserve Willowbank Turns 40

Discussion in 'New Zealand' started by zooboy28, 26 Oct 2014.

  1. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    One of New Zealand's largest "small" zoos turned 40 yesterday:

    Full story & photos here: Willowbank grew from small beginnings - national | Stuff.co.nz

     
  2. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I went to Willowbank yesterday and it is looking good, as always. There are a couple of new aviaries since last time I was there, and a very nice one for Blue Duck is currently being built where the Ostrich yard used to be (their Ostrich was killed in a storm last year). There were baby Tuatara on show, and some new Australian Water Dragons.

    I consider Willowbank to be one of the "major" ("main", "proper", choose your own descriptive) zoos in NZ, even though it is fairly small and the range of exotic mammals is tiny (basically otters, wallabies, ruffed and ring-tailed lemurs, capuchins, siamang), which I think speaks more of the low number of zoos in the country with exotics. However I like it better than Orana Park and I generally spend as long on a visit at Willowbank as I do at Wellington Zoo. (To qualify that, Wellington Zoo is still easily my second favourite zoo in NZ after Auckland Zoo).
     
  3. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    When in NZ I was pleasantly surpised to find this place as I was somewhat starved of zoos while there. I remember it being pretty small though and I didn't spend too long there. They had chimps at the time, which I was surprised to see, but I don't think they still have them now. It was the first place I saw KuneKune pigs too.
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    it is quite small (much smaller than Auckland, Wellington, etc) but it holds its own well. The chimps were ex-circus animals, a pair plus their daughter. The male and daughter went to Mogo in Australia a few years ago (the female had died by then). The male died at Mogo and the daughter is now at Rockhampton in Queensland.
     
  5. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    There was a young male(son) too after the daughter, but I know when they left it was only the father & daughter. Apparently, according to a notice at Willowbank about their history, at one time the original pair had been living on an 'island':confused: at/near Dunedin.
     
  6. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    there's a suburb in Dunedin called Green Island, so it may have been there.

    The male Charlie was from the Whirling Brothers Circus and toured NZ for many years before retiring to Willowbank (he was originally wild-caught and imported from England, probably in the 60s). The female Coco was born at Taronga and was the one who came to Willowbank from Dunedin.

    I'm not sure of the rest of the details -- Steve would probably know? According to press releases at the time of the chimps moving to Mogo both Charlie and Samantha (the daughter) had been at Willowbank since 1985 which implies they arrived together. I'm not sure if that means Charlie also came from Dunedin with Coco and Samantha had already been born then (so all three chimps arrived at Willowbank as a family group), or if it was a mistake in the reporting.

    I'm not sure about the male offspring you mention. He may have died or gone back to the circus. I do remember back in the late 80s/early 90s there was a bit of a uproar in the papers about a baby chimp born at Willowbank being at the centre of a court case regarding ownership between Willowbank and the circus (the latter of which, if my memory is correct, still claimed ownership of the adult pair Charlie and Coco).
     
  7. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    That's really interesting about their family history. I had presumed both offspring were born at Willowbank but that was without being aware of their full history. There were definately four when I saw them circa 1991- the daughter was already quite large and the male baby much smaller. I wonder if the circus got him back- a pity if they did as he would have been seperated from the others.:(