Auckland Zoo is delighted to be among 21 science organisations to sign Aotearoa New Zealand’s first animal research openness agreement – which is all about ensuring the public are well informed about animals involved in teaching and research.

Launched on 27 July at the 2021 annual conference of ANZCCART (Australia and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching) in Queenstown, the agreement becomes the first of its kind outside of Europe.

“As a conservation science organisation, the Zoo’s animal research, be it here on site or out in the wild, is ultimately all about helping to conserve wildlife in wild places, primarily Aotearoa’s own threatened taonga species,” says Auckland Zoo’s Head of Animal Care & Conservation, Richard Gibson.

“This agreement is a really exciting step forward in Aotearoa, and we’re really proud to be part of it along with the other signatories, - a number of whom we work with closely.  It highlights the value and importance of engaging with tangata whenua and of being transparent when animals are involved in research – so that everyone can understand how and why research is being carried out, the importance of the work being done, and be reassured that the methodologies used ensure the animals’ best welfare.  

“We can’t save any species unless we truly understand it!  This is key to many of the research projects that Auckland Zoo is undertaking. These range from natural history studies in the wild on the newly described northern striped gecko, to zoo-based studies on dietary preferences of the critically endangered cobble and Kapitia skinks to understanding the origin, impact and treatment of aspergillosis and cloacitis in kākāpō,” says Gibson.

Conservation is all about people and partnership, and all the research projects Auckland Zoo carries out wouldn’t be possible without close collaboration with a range of different partners. A great example is the enigmatic northern striped gecko (Torupuku inexpectatus). First discovered in 1997 when a single individual was found inside a residential home in Coromandel township, the species was only formally described last year, and its natural history and conservation requirements remain largely unknown.

“Our ectotherm specialists have been working in a conservation partnership with the incredible team from Mahakirau Forest Estate Society Inc studying and surveying this elusive, cryptic gecko in their predator-controlled 600ha estate over the past three years. With consistent and repeated monitoring the Mahakirau database now includes more than 100 individuals.


Searching for an elusive New Zealand gecko

Follow our ectotherm experts as they search the native forest at Mahakirau Forest Estate looking for the cryptic northern striped gecko.

“Now, to further understand this gecko’s micro-habitat requirements and daily activity, we are collaborating with Massey University, a fellow signatory, to attach radio transmitters – in the form of a teeny-tiny backpack – to some of these geckos for a short period. By doing this, we will be able to gather invaluable data on exactly where the geckos live, how they use their habitat and their activity periods, all of which are invaluable in planning for this stunning gecko’s ongoing conservation management,” explains Gibson.

Auckland Zoo is grateful to ANZCCART and the working group of organisations that played such a key role in bringing this agreement to reality – a process that also included public consultation.