This is Ben Goodwin, our Ectotherm Keeper.

“So what’s an Ectotherm Keeper?” we hear you say. Good question. Ectotherms are animals that depend on external sources to regulate their body temperature. Like reptiles, crabs, fish and many insects. And Ben LOVES insects. Which is great news for Auckland Zoo’s ‘bug’ population because ectotherms need a lot of looking after.

Maintaining the right environment for every species to thrive is a job that takes patience, care and attention. And with two certificates in Animal Management and over 14 years of experience (more than half his life) Ben is just the man for the job. Not just at the Zoo, but in the wild as well.

The best part of my job is working directly with conservation projects; helping to restore threatened species places where they would have lived in the past.

Ben Goodwin, Ectotherms Keeper

Re-introducing ectotherms, and in particular wētāpunga into the wild is an important part of Ben’s work. Introduced predators have almost caused their extinction, leaving only one natural Wētāpunga population on Te Hauturu-o-Toi (Little Barrier Island). There, they were threatened by Pacific rats (kiore). However, the kiore were eradicated by the Department of Conservation (DOC) in 2000. And without these predators, the species is now recovering.

Auckland Zoo and DOC are mitigating this risk with a captive breeding programme, which also involves translocating wētāpunga to other suitable islands. The goal is to establish new populations, re-expand their range and alleviate the risk of extinction. And Ben is an important part of this project. So no matter how much he loves being in contact with insects, there’s nothing he likes more than seeing them run off into the wild – where they belong…

Saving New Zealand's prehistoric wētāpunga

See for yourself how Ben and the team are working to save these little giants.

Watch here >