21 April 2004
The jumbo-sized job of moving a 5-metre tall elephant from its ‘home’ at Auckland Zoo on Monday, 26 April marks the beginning of a major redevelopment of the zoo's front entry complex.
And who better to ensure the safe relocation from the front entrance into storage than its creator, artist Jeff Thomson, who installed the popular commissioned corrugated iron mammal over a decade ago.
Mr Thomson, whose corrugated creations are exhibited and sought after around the world, will take the African elephant down in pieces, so that it can be easily stored until its new home, the new Education Centre, is completed.
The Education Centre is the first phase of the $3.5 million front entry redevelopment. The new Education Centre will open in late August and the front entry complex in early December. This will include a new admissions and ticketing area, administration block, Visitors' Centre, gift shop, café, and central plaza area.
"The current front entry area is frustratingly small, and designed to cater for half the number of visitors the zoo now receives," says Glen Holland, Auckland Zoo Director.
"The upgrade is long overdue, and is exciting, as it's going to make the whole experience of entering the zoo and accessing visitor services a lot more pleasurable. Visitors will be able to enter the central plaza area, meet up with friends, relax and have a coffee, shop, or call in to the Visitors' Centre, before they purchase their tickets."
"The ticketing process itself will also be a lot more efficient, as only one member of a group will need to queue and visitors with a Friends of the Zoo or any other pre-paid pass will be fast-tracked through a separate entry," says Mr Holland.
Temporary entrance and visitor services facilities The redevelopment will see the current entry closed from 26 April until early December. The temporary entrance will be located just a little further along Motions Rd, opposite Western Springs College (follow the bright green signs and paw prints!). A temporary Visitors' Centre (with First Aid room), Wild Zone Gift Shop and toilets, will be set up just inside the temporary entrance. Parking will still be in the current two car parks and along Motions Road.
"During the construction period we have no alternative, but to close the Bank of New Zealand Kiwi & Tuatara House," says Maria Finnigan, Life Sciences Manager.
"Unfortunately it is not possible to have kiwi on public display elsewhere in the zoo during this period, however tuatara can be viewed in a large enclosure within the Aquarium."
The closing of the top entrance area of the zoo will also mean the zoo's Pridelands area will only be accessible from Lion's Larder plaza, which is bordered by Lion Hill, the Elephant enclosure and the flamingo exhibit. To assist visitors to easily navigate this temporary situation, visitors will receive a free A4 map, which will also incorporate the daily encounters schedule.