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Auckland Zoo’s three Bornean orangutans will fly south to Christchurch in the early hours of tomorrow morning (Thursday) bound for their temporary new home, Orana Wildlife Park.
Male Charlie and females Melur and Wanita will have a two-year stay at Orana while Auckland Zoo builds its long planned-for South East Asian precinct. Among many habitats and species, it will include an expansive new home for these Critically Endangered arboreal great apes.
The Zoo’s Primate team leader Amy Robbins says a great deal of work and planning has gone into the trio’s relocation which involves two road trips and a 2.5 hour flight on a Qantas cargo plane, including the design of their transportation crates.
“Our purpose-built marine aluminium crates are the equivalent of (super-sized) first-class seats – specifically designed to make Charlie, Melur and Wanita’s journey as comfortable and stress-free as possible. They have everything from just the right amount of ventilation, a comfortable floor which we’ll cover with bedding/browse, water drinkers and ‘hand holds’ – as being arboreal, orangutans like to have something to hold onto. We’ll also be treating them to a lunch-box of their favourite fruits and vegetables,” says Amy, who will be at Orana with a Primate team colleague and Auckland Zoo vet when the orangutans arrive.
Auckland Zoo has worked closely with Orana staff in preparation for the orangutans’ move into its Great Ape Centre to ensure the set-up here meets all the needs and requirements of these highly intelligent primates.
Lynn Anderson, Orana Widlife Park CEO
The transfer will be something very special for our team, and local people. Charlie, Melur and Wanita are going to be housed in our Great Ape Centre, next to our magnificent gorillas. This centre enables people to experience and connect with these impressive primates and learn about the threats these critically endangered animals face.
Orana Wildlife Park chief executive Lynn Anderson says there is already much anticipation for the three’ orangutans’ arrival, whose stay in Christchurch will see Orana “privileged to hold the only gorillas and orangutans in New Zealand”.
“The transfer will be something very special for our team, and local people. Charlie, Melur and Wanita are going to be housed in our Great Ape Centre, next to our magnificent gorillas. This centre enables people to experience and connect with these impressive primates and learn about the threats these critically endangered animals face,” says Ms Anderson.
Construction of Auckland Zoo’s new Sumatra-focused precinct, due to be completed by early 2020, is part of a $120m 10-year redevelopment programme being funded through Auckland Council’s long-term plan, and becomes the largest project in the 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,” says Auckland Zoo director, Jonathan Wilcken. “It’s a region close to our hearts with big conservation challenges and opportunities, and an area that we’re very active in supporting.”
Along with orangutans, who will live alongside siamang gibbons, the South East Asian precinct will also feature tigers, otters, and a rich diversity of reptile, fish, and invertebrates. In addition, the development will include a new restaurant/function venue that will overlook the Zoo’s central lake area – orangutan and siamang habitat.