Super Staff, Zoo-per-heroes, call them what you like: Eight profiles you may have missed of our essential zoo whānau!

Amongst the backdrop of the Covid 19 pandemic, we are #closedbutstillcaring as our essential zoo crew continue to care for and enrich the lives of our animals, whilst maintaining and running our zoo. Have you ever wondered about the type of person that may choose to devote their life to animal care, conservation, and advocacy for all natural things? These guys may not wear capes – but they are certainly superheroes to us. Learn more about them below. 

1. To kick off our list, take a moment to learn about our fearless leader – Kevin Buley. From a biology degree, to mountain chicken (frogs), watch Kevin discuss his history and vision for Auckland Zoo. “A good modern zoo is more relevant than ever. Zoos on their own are not going to save wildlife and save this planet, but the people that visit zoos, the people that connect with good zoo’s will”. 


Meet Kevin Buley

Kevin explains the role of a modern zoo, and what kicked off his journey into wildlife conservation science

2. We aren’t short of incredible leaders at Auckland Zoo, and are privileged to have Monica Lake as our Assets and Facilities Manager, and Project Director for our ongoing, biggest redevelopment ever undertaken at Auckland Zoo. And it’s more than just bricks and mortar, Monica sees her role holistically, “My ultimate goal is that every visitor leaves the zoo feeling great about themselves and nature, and excited about discovering what they can do”.

Interested in how you might build a zoo? Read more here

3. From zoo directors to primate keepers, everyone has a vital role to play, and Christine Tintinger is an extraordinary woman who has dedicated more than 40 incredible years to caring for Auckland Zoo’s primates. ‘Devoted’ doesn’t begin to cut it! And you may be thinking, what was it like being a female zookeeper over 40 years ago..?

Read on to find out.

4. Another member of our zoo whānau that has devoted a ginormous chunk of their life to animal welfare, is none other than our own Dr. Richard Jakob-Hoff, who was working in our vet hospital back in 1990, when Auckland Zoo was the first place in the world to hand rear a kakapo chick. Disclaimer: the following story and video contains bundles of kakapo fluff and outfits from the 60’s!


Richard's Wild Work for kākāpō!

Watch as Richard explains his lifelong passion to help save kākāpō

5. And for the slightly smaller, yet equally important species – Ben Goodwin is our zealous insect advocate and environmentalist, not to mention walking dictionary on all things ectotherm. Incredibly knowledgeable, and always happy to share.

Read on to discover how from a young age he was encouraged to foster his ecto-dreams.

6. We’ve all got to eat right? So our zoo-permarket stays open, 365 days per year! Where does all the food come from? How is it sourced? Is it weighed? How many kilos of fruit and vegetables do our elephant girls eat? All really great questions, that our fantastic stores coordinator Ian Pownall would love to tell you about. 

Read about Ian's vital work keeping the zoo running here.

7. From one critically endangered species to another, Odin Neil is a man on a mission – to bring back New Zealand’s sea lion (one of the world’s rarest) from the brink of extinction. Elephant and seal keeper by day, and conservationist by night (… and day, and anything in-between). 

Read more about this sea lion conservation project and watch our video with Odin below!


We're giving sea lions a fighting chance!

Follow seals keeper Odin as he heads to Stewart Island with our partners for the annual seal lion pup count

8. At the end of the day, it’s all about our identity. What drives us to be the people we become? It’s how we identify as humans – our culture, our upbringing, our passions. Hōhepa Waenga believes in embracing all parts of who we are, and not usually one to talk about himself, Hōhepa was quick to take up an opportunity to discuss his own journey of learning Te Reo, his heritage, and the story behind his moko mataora.