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Auckland Zoo captures NZ's natural heart

By Lucy Brake - 13 Sep 2011 8:10:0 GMT
Auckland Zoo captures NZ's natural heart

Image Credit: The Wetlands (Nga Repo) © Auckland Zoo

Called Te Wao Nui, the $16 million exhibit encompasses the natural unique habitats and environment of Aotearoa New Zealand and offers visitors to Auckland Zoo a glimpse into New Zealand's natural world.

Te Wao Nui has been specially designed to provide visitors with an interactive journey through six New Zealand ecosystems and habitats. Creating homes for around 350 native animals and 100 different plant species, this new exhibit showcases many species that have the public would have never had the opportunity to see before.

The journey of Te Wao Nui immerses visitors into iconic New Zealand environments including The Islands (Moutere Rahui), The Coast (Takutai) and The Wetlands (Nga Repo). "The six new habitats are stunning examples of New Zealand wildlife," says Auckland Mayor Len Brown, "and a must see for Aucklanders and visitors".

The opening of the new exhibit has been timed to coincide with the start of New Zealand's Conservation Week and means that many of the visitors to Auckland can enjoy a preview of New Zealand's natural environment and conservation efforts.

Many of the species on show are facing extinction and so this is a perfect opportunity to highlight their role in the natural environment and help with conservation work. Native animals like the Campbell Island teal, the Otago skink and the short-tailed bat can all be seen in their new enclosures.

Key partners in this exciting project include the Department of Conservation and the local Maori tribe, Ngati Whatua o Orakei. As the kaitiaki (or guardians), Ngati Whatua o Orakei have provided integral components of the exhibit through creating special Maori artworks, including a three metre high totara carving that will take pride of place in The Forest (Te Wao Nui a Tane) habitat exhibit.

Auckland Zoo director Jonathan Wilcken says that this is the most significant development in the history of the zoo and one that is "focused entirely on celebrating and conserving the extraordinary and unique wildlife of New Zealand".