About Auckland Zoo

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History of Auckland Zoo

Take a trip down memory lane!

Auckland Zoo 1925

How it all began...

In November 1911, a zoo opened in the Auckland suburb of Onehunga. This area belonged to John James Boyd, who set up a private menagerie consisting of six lions, a tiger, a panther, one hyena, two dogs, vultures, an emu and several monkeys - and here the early seeds of Auckland Zoo were sown.

The residents of Onehunga were upset about the zoo - and the following years saw a multitude of safety concerns and complaints about the noise, smell, and crowds. In June 1922, Auckland City Council purchased the animals and six months later, on 17 December 1922, opened what is now Auckland Zoo, at the current Western Springs location.

One of the early challenges the Zoo faced was to build a collection of animals. City business people were encouraged to seek out new stock whilst on overseas trips, which brought many more new animals for the Zoo.

Chimps' tea party

JanieIn 1956, it was decided that zoo visitors wanted more "entertainment". Chimpanzee tea parties had been happening for some time at London Zoo, and were very popular. Auckland Zoo decided to follow suit, and four young chimpanzees arrived in October 1956 to entertain the crowds.

Having spent time in London learning this art, the chimpanzees, Janie, Bobbie, Josie and Minnie, settled in quickly to the daily tea party ritual and entertained thousands of visitors. This famous four featured in tea parties until the Zoo put an end to this primarily visitor-focused activity in 1964. By this stage, attitudes to animals in captivity were beginning to change.

The last remaining of the group, much-loved chimpanzee Janie passed away in October 2013, aged 60 years. Janie was highly intelligent, cheeky, funny and wise, and in her 57 years here, connected with millions of visitors, was treasured by Zoo staff, and loved by many. We will greatly miss 'our wise old lady'.

Click here to read a story about Janie in the Zoo's magazine, Zoo Alive (PDF - 910KB)

Key dates for Auckland Zoo

1922 On 17 December 1922, Auckland Zoo opened at its current Western Springs location
1923  Auckland Zoo's first star arrives - Jamuna the elephant. The area outside the Old Elephant House is now named Jamuna Plaza after her.
1925  Excitement, fear and panic rages in Auckland when a leopard manages to escape from the Zoo. A month later it is found drowned in Lady Bay, near St. Heliers.

Rajah, the Zoo's first male elephant arrived at Auckland Zoo, from Hobart, Australia, in November 1930. Rajah is currently on display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

1949  The Zoo was officially allowed to exhibit kiwi.
1956 First 'chimpanzee tea party' held on Sunday, 25 November, 1956 (continuing until 1964).
1958 The Zoo opens the Children's Zoo.
1965 Jamuna the elephant passes away.
1971 ASB funds the gifting of female elephant Kashin to the Zoo. She arrives in 1973.
1977 In June 1977, floods gives a hippo freedom as it floats out of its enclosure into Western Springs.
1981 The Zoo's first animal hospital opens.
1988 The Zoo plays host to two giant panda bears. Xiao Xiao (four year old male) and Fei Fei (three year old female). More than 300,000 visitors see the pandas in three months. 
Their visit raises $100,000 for panda research and conservation in China as well as funds for conservation projects in New Zealand.
1989 The Zoo's Japanese Garden opens - a joint sister-city cultural project of the Fukuoka City Hall authority and Auckland City Council.
1990 Burma, a young female Asian elephant arrives from Myanmar (Burma) to join Kashin.
1992 The New Zealand Aviary opens - a free-flight aviary and bush walk featuring NZ native species.  This area has been redeveloped to become 'The Forest', as part of the Zoo's NZ precinct development, Te Wao Nui, which opened in September 2011.
1996 The Rainforest opens - a naturalistic exhibit, featuring different primate species, including cotton-top tmarins - which have access to a large area of this forest precinct.
1996 The Zoo becomes part of the BNZ Save the Kiwi Operation Nest Egg programme - incubating, hatching, rearing and releasing kiwi to safe sanctuaries to help improve kiwi survival rates in the wild.
1997 The Kiwi and Tuatara House is re-vamped.  A new lemur exhibit opens.
1998 The Zoo's new large African precinct, Pridelands, opens - an immersive and expansive naturalistic environment - home to African species - including giraffe, zebra, lion, rhino, springbok, and flamingo.
1998 Female Sumatran tiger Nisha arrives.
1999 The first series of "The Zoo" television series screens on TV1. To date, 12 series of The Zoo have screened.
2001 The Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund  is established to support the conservation of endangered animals in the wild in both New Zealand and overseas.
2001 Sea Lion and Penguin Shores (now called 'The Coast') opens in September 2001 - an award-winning exhibit representing New Zealand's coastline, featuring a beach, walkthrough aviary and large underwater viewing window, and planted out with 100% NZ native plant species.
2003 - 2004 Newborn siamang gibbon Iwani is rejected by his mother Iuri at 7 weeks old, and successfully hand-raised by keepers and re-introduced back to his family, aged one year.
2004 Following the Zoo's decision to focus on just one great ape species - the orangutan, Auckland Zoo's family of six chimpanzees relocate to Hamilton Zoo - to a new state-of-the-art facility.  This leaves Auckland Zoo with just 2 chimps, Bobbie and Janie - the two remaining "tea party" chimps.  Bobbie dies in November 2004.
2005 Behind-the-scenes tours are launched.
2005 Bornean orangutan Madju born - the first orangutan to be born at the Zoo in 11 years.
2005 Auckland Zoo awarded Department of Conservation's 2005 Conservation Achievement Award in Partnerships and Community Involvement.
2006 The Zoo's only tiger - female Sumatran tiger Nisha, dies suddenly.  Male Sumatran tiger Oz arrives from Israel, and female Sumatran tiger, Molek, - to be paired with Oz, arrives from Hamilton Zoo.
2006 Auckland Zoo vets are appointed supplier of veterinary services for the Department of Conservation's (DOC) Kakapo Recovery Programme.
2007 Official opening of New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine (NZCCM) - the first national centre for conservation medicine in the world - replacing the Zoo's old vet centre.
2007 Auckland Zoo is awarded the highest international accreditation standard in environmental management - the International Standards Organisation's ISO 14001.  This comes two years ahead of its 2009 target.  The Zoo also achieves another 2009 environmental goal - that of reducing 85% of all Zoo waste.
2008 After 10 years planning, the Zoo makes history with the breeding of three Sumatran tiger cubs (Jalur, Berani and Cinta) for the international captive breeding programme for this critically endangered big cat.
2009 The Zoo releases 12 Northern tuatara of rare Cuvier Island descent onto Cuvier Island, boosting this island's known tuatara population by over a third.
2009 The Zoo's much-loved matriarch - 40-year-old female Asian elephant Kashin is put to sleep, after losing her battle with chronic health problems. A record 18,000 people come to celebrate her life on Sunday 29 August - the most visitors ever to visit the Zoo in one day.
2009 Auckland Zoo hosts kakapo Sirocco for Conservation Week in partnership with DOC - providing a unique opportunity for visitors to see a kakapo - and the first zoo in New Zealand to ever host a kakapo.
2009 Auckland Zoo is awarded the Year of the Frog Award by ARAZPA (Australasian Regional Association of Zoos and Aquaria) for its outstanding efforts in raising awareness of the amphibian crisis - a year-long campaign that also resulted in over $35,000 being raised to assist frog conservation.
2010 Construction begins on the new NZ precinct development, Te Wao Nui, due to open in September 2011.
2010 The Zoo achieves milestone of successfully incubating, hatching, rearing and releasing 200 North Island brown kiwi chicks for the BNZ Operation Nest Egg programme.
2011 Te Wao Nui, Auckland Zoo's largest ever development, opens on 11 September 2011.
2013 The last remaining of the 'tea party chimp group', much-loved chimpanzee Janie passes away in October 2013, aged 60 years.
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The devils are coming...

Four Tasmanian devils are making their way to Auckland Zoo this week, just in time for April School Holidays.

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Auckland Zoo
Motions Road
Western Springs
Auckland 1022