Happy New Year! Its almost 2021, a perfect time to share some highlights from ‘the year that was’ and say a heartfelt thank you for all your support. It’s truly meant more to us than ever before.

Though this year was not without its challenges, we’ve also had plenty to be thankful for. We kicked 2020 off to a great start with the arrival of giraffe Billy from Australia Zoo and the return of our orangutans from a two-year staycation in Christchurch, to their brand-new High Canopy habitat that they share alongside our siamang. Just this month, Charlie, Melur and Wanita were able to traverse their 25-metre-high aerial pathways for the first time and our visitors were able to see how incredible these natural climbing-experts truly are. We also opened Flight School, our exciting new free-flight area, where you and your whānau can connect with a variety of incredible birds, learning more from our experts about their adaptations and how we can all help to conserve them.   


And that's a wrap...2020!

This past year we've collectively experienced some unprecedented challenges, but there's also been plenty of highlights too! Look back with us on everything you helped us to achieve in 2020.

Luckily for us, we also experienced a bit of a baby boom! Southern white rhino Jamila gave birth to baby Nyah, marking the first time in twenty years that we’ve had a rhino born at the zoo. When golden lion tamarin Frida was not able to produce milk for her babies, our primate keepers dedicated their time and expertise to the hand-rearing of her critically endangered twins that were then able to be successfully reunited with their parents. We also welcomed to the zoo whanau: porcupette twins, a raft of otter pups, spider and squirrel monkey babies, several nyala calves, emperor tamarin babies, a baboon baby and more birds and ectotherms than you can count!

With your help we achieved an incredible amount for wildlife and wild places – which is our true passion, mission and purpose. Through our breed for release programmes for Aotearoa’s threatened species we’ve incubated, hatched and released thirteen kiwi to predator-free islands, with twelve pāteke ducklings and nine kākāriki karaka chicks (and counting!) heading to Isaacs Wildlife and Conservation Trust in Christchurch to prepare for wild release. We also secured two incredible conservation partnerships with Motuihe Island Trust and Project Island Song that has seen us restoring wētāpunga to FOUR more sanctuary Islands in New Zealand - Motuihe Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf and Bay of Islands’ Urupukapuka, Moturua and Motuarohia Islands. The first time wētāpunga have been seen in the Bay for 180-years!

We’ve also had great success this year with the two critically endangered skink species we’re caring for at the zoo, both of which were rescued by the Department of Conservation (DOC) before separate cyclones hit their only known locations. We’re currently looking after New Zealand’s entire population of cobble skinks and after a lot of hard work perfecting their husbandry, we’ve been able to increase their population to 55 individuals– that’s an increase of 52%! We’ve also been caring for a quarter of the entire population of Kapitia (Chesterfield) skinks, providing an insurance population against their extinction. With 50 individuals collected, we’ve also been able to increase their numbers, with an incredible 11 skinks born this year. With both lizard species, we’re working with DOC to plan the next stage in their recovery.

What about our fieldwork you ask? In between Aotearoa’s Covid-19 lockdowns our staff were able to commit more than 2470 hours in the field to health check, monitor and assist with critical conservation planning for at-risk native species. Some of this mahi has included: surveying for the rare pūweto (spotted crake) in the Matuku Link wetlands; taking part in the annual New Zealand sea lion pup count that has helped to confirm a colony at Stewart Island; surveying for the Muriwai gecko with our colleagues at Auckland Council; undertaking the annual kōkako census in Ark in the Park, as well as important bait-lining to control pests in the area; surveying for the Northern striped gecko in Mahakirau Forest Estate; helping to establish Alborn skink range and populations; monitoring Archey’s frogs in Whareorino and Pukeokahu; monitoring lizards at Oteake Conservation Park and Rangitoto Island and assisting Massey University in reintroducing precious Duvaucel’s gecko on Motutapu and Otata Islands. Phew! And as if that weren’t enough, we also continued our transmitter changes and health checks for takahē and kākāpō in the wild as part of our partnership with the Department of Conservation.

Every year our skilled veterinary team use their expertise to care for our zoo whānau as well as more than 75+ patients from the wild. These are sick or injured animals that are brought into our Vet Hospital in need of veterinary assistance. This past year we have seen New Zealand fur seals, loggerhead, green and black sea turtles, as well as a myriad of bird species such as ruru, silver eye, fairy tern, kererū, kākā and Salvin's mollymawk. Veterinary nurse Kylie spent two-weeks at Melbourne Zoo, caring for koala that were hospitalised during Australia’s bushfires earlier this year, and veterinary coordinator Mikaylie helped with kākāpō health checks on Te Hauturu-o-Toi (Little Barrier Island).

Through the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund, we have also supported conservation in Africa, Asia, South America, the South Pacific and in New Zealand. In Asia we’re supporting an ambitious project with the Sumatran Rhino Survival Alliance to boost Sumatran rhino numbers in the wild through a last-chance captive breeding programme; we enabled our partners at Red Panda Network to secure lands for red panda conservation in eastern Nepal; we assisted Wildcats Conservation Alliance to continue their work protecting the Sumatran tiger in Kerinci Seblat National Park; we supported the Sumatran Ranger Project and their work mitigating human-wildlife conflict along the border of the Leuser Ecosystem; we funded crucial orangutan research and rehabilitation with our partners at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme and we worked with the Centre for Conservation and Research to continue to make a change for Asian elephants in Sri Lanka.

In Africa we supported the Cheetah Outreach Trust and their work managing human-wildlife conflict in the farmlands of South African and helped to protect giraffe in Namibia with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. In South America we supported Spider Monkey Conservation Project’s work with the critically endangered brown spider monkey in Caparo Forest Reserve.

As well as the many fieldwork and breed for release programmes we mentioned earlier, we also helped to fund the following projects in Aotearoa: we worked with Wildland Consultants Ltd to research the nationally vulnerable kupe and lakes skinks, worked with Kea Conservation Trust to mitigate threats to kea in Mt Aspiring National Park and in the South Pacific we continued our work with SOP Manu to protect the Fatu hiva monarch from extinction, and continued our work with Samoa's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Samoa Conservation Society and Save the Manumea to protect Samoa’s national icon - the critically endangered manumea

This incredible list of conservation science in action is only made possible through your zoo visits and donations. We’d love to see even more of you in 2021, so please consider supporting us with an annual membership to the zoo, if you’re not a friend of the zoo already.