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Auckland Zoo and Rotoroa Island team up to create wildlife sanctuary

17 December 2012

Rotoroa IslandAuckland Zoo and Rotoroa Island are working together to establish an important wildlife conservation sanctuary on Rotoroa Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

Closed to the public for nearly 100 years, Rotoroa Island was a place of sanctuary for people recovering from addiction. However, it re-opened in 2011 as an arts, heritage and conservation estate.

This partnership will ensure that the island's legacy of recovery, salvation and renewal will continue into its future, by eventually becoming a sanctuary for a range of endangered New Zealand species.

From left, chairperson of the Rotoroa Island Trust, Barrie Brown, Auckland Zoo director, Jonathan Wilcken, Wildlife Manager - Rotoroa Island, Ian Fraser and Rotoroa Island Trust trustee, John Gow.Auckland Zoo director Jonathan Wilcken is thrilled to announce the partnership with Rotoroa Island on the Zoo's 90th birthday.

"For the past 90 years, Auckland Zoo has focused on creating a sanctuary for wildlife within the zoo grounds, but the Auckland Zoo of today is working more and more to save species in the wild," he says.

New Zealand leads the world in island restoration projects for wildlife, and the Rotoroa Island partnership with the Zoo signals a new chapter in island restoration.

Rotoroa Island"It will see us extending the Zoo beyond our grounds in a way that's never been done before in New Zealand, using specialist zoo expertise to bring back, and manage a wide range of species on a remarkable island sanctuary.

"We'll also be establishing a unique schools programme to encourage students to get directly involved with the work of ecological restoration. We hope to see a whole generation of kids grow up with a sense of ownership in the renewal of Rotoroa Island as a wildlife sanctuary," he says.

Rotoroa IslandThe partnership between Auckland Zoo and Rotoroa Island is funded by the Hutton Wilson Charitable Trust and is for $4m over the next five years.

"Creating a sanctuary on Rotoroa Island for New Zealand's endangered wildlife is a natural extension to the current activities of protecting the island's conservation and heritage," says Rotoroa Island trustee, John Gow.

"This partnership with Auckland Zoo brings the island closer to the city whilst creating a nationally significant wildlife sanctuary. It's a win-win situation for both parties," he says.

Surveys of the existing birds, reptiles and invertebrates on Rotoroa Island, will begin later this month, and Auckland Zoo and the Rotoroa Island Trust will eventually build animal breeding and release facilities on the island.

"We're delighted that Auckland Zoo and Rotoroa Island are working together to establish a wildlife sanctuary that will give Aucklanders an opportunity to set foot in, and get involved with, an environment under restoration," says Sir Don McKinnon, chairperson of Regional Facilities Auckland, the Auckland Council-controlled organisation which owns Auckland Zoo. 

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