The $50m two-year development in the heart of the Zoo is due to start in a few months' time. It is part of a $120m 10-year redevelopment programme being funded through Auckland Council's long-term plan, and becomes the largest project in Auckland Zoo's 95-year history.

"This precinct will transform almost one fifth of the Zoo, and will offer our visitors a stunningly immersive experience of one of the most wildlife-rich but threatened places on Earth. It's a region close to our hearts with big conservation challenges and opportunities, and an area that we're very active in supporting," says Auckland Zoo director, Jonathan Wilcken.

As well as providing an expansive new home for orangutans, who will live alongside siamang gibbons, the South East Asian focused precinct will also feature tigers, otters, and a diversity of reptile, fish, and invertebrates.  In addition, the development will incorporate a new restaurant/function venue that will overlook the Zoo's central lake.

For orangutans, male Charlie and females Melur and Wanita, the temporary move south to Orana Wildlife Park will be a change, but they'll be going with the comfort and security of some familiar faces – their primate keepers.

"We've been working closely with our Orana colleagues who are spending time here getting to know our orangutans. Come the move, my team and I will take turns working between Auckland and Orana," says Auckland Zoo Primate team leader, Amy Robbins. "This move will see these highly intelligent great apes get the best of both worlds – the security of us and the stimulation of a new environment and people." 

Orana Wildlife Park chief executive, Lynn Anderson says she and her team are very excited at the prospect of welcoming Auckland's orangutans.

"These amazing apes will be housed next to our magnificent gorillas in the Great Ape Centre – a habitat that we opened in 2015, which has been designed to hold both gorillas and orangutans in separate spaces. The gorillas have captivated visitors and I am certain people will be equally enthralled with the awesome orangutans. It is great to work with Auckland Zoo on this transfer, a fantastic example of how zoos collaborate together for species' conservation," says Ms Anderson.