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Auckland Zoo Sets Up Conservation Medicine Centre

Auckland Zoo to be home to the New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine

The Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon Helen Clark, will today officially open Auckland Zoo's new Front Entry Complex, including the Education Centre, and also unveil the model for the New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine (NZCCM).

This centre, to be built at the zoo by 2006, will supercede the zoo's current veterinary hospital (no longer adequate for the depth and volume of its work), and further its already key national and international roles in native fauna conservation. The Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust, drivers of this project, will announce details of their fundraising campaign for ensuring this vital $4.6m project becomes a reality.

The zoo's long planned for $4.3m Front Entry redevelopment (funded by Auckland City) to cater for zoo growth, opened to the public in December.

Incorporating a new Education Centre, administration block, ticketing facilities, Information Centre, gift shop, café and central plaza area, its design is already proving hugely popular with visitors, and from a practical perspective, is working superbly. The design is a first for the Australasian region, and has already attracted the attention of other zoos, keen to follow the Auckland concept.

"We're very proud of what's been achieved. Along with an outstanding Education facility, we have certainly created a winning feature in our new central plaza area, which serves to relax visitors as soon as they arrive," says Auckland Zoo Director, Glen Holland.

"The plaza is an inviting decompression zone with ticketing and ticket collection divided to minimise queuing, and it enables people to visit the gift shop or the café before buying tickets, or entering the zoo proper. This set-up is also great for passers-by, who equally, have access to the plaza and shops, and can even catch a glimpse of giraffe and rhino. Making these facilities accessible to a wider group of people, will ultimately also help increase our revenue to support our core conservation work," says Mr Holland.

Mr Holland says with the front entry and associated facilities now upgraded to adequately cater for the zoo's half a million-plus visitors annually, the zoo will now be fully focused on the establishment of the New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine (NZCCM) by 2006. In tandem with this will be the creation of a 'must-see' New Zealand precinct by 2008. This will feature native flora, fauna and cultural experiences to highlight the value of New Zealand's biodiversity, conservation issues, and initiatives, which include captive breeding of threatened and endangered species.

Conservation medicine is a relatively new science that addresses the issues of wildlife disease from an ecological perspective, and looks at the connections between the health of the environment, people and animals.

The need for the NZCCM has arisen, both from the zoo's desire to provide its animals with the best possible healthcare facilities, and from its increasing involvement in national biosecurity, and wildlife conservation. Department of Conservation (DOC) and Biosecurity New Zealand (MAF) regularly contract the zoo’s veterinary staff. The zoo is involved in many native fauna breeding recovery and research projects, and has pioneered baseline health screening and disease risk assessment for native birds and reptiles.

The centre's role will encompass specialised teaching, research, and veterinary services in support of New Zealand's threatened fauna. "Seventy five per cent of newly emerging human diseases (such as SARS and Bird Flu) have an animal origin. Given this, zoo management and the trust are convinced the Conservation Medicine approach will play a critical role in ensuring New Zealand develops effective disease control strategies for wildlife, people, and domestic animals," says Mr Holland.

A first for zoo visitors – the new centre will include opportunities to view the work of zoo vets – a strictly behind the scenes activity at present.

The Zoo Charitable Trust has to date already raised $2.4m of the $4.6m required, and with corporate and community support, is confident it will achieve its goal to have the centre built by 2006.

"This centre is too important not to make happen," says Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust Chair, Penny Whiting, M.B.E.

"We're delighted and grateful to have already received major contributions from ASB Trusts, the Lion Foundation, Lottery Environment & Heritage, Auckland City, the Chisholm Whitney Charitable Trust, Scottwood Group, and Southern Trust, as well as a number of bequests, corporate and family gifts. The trust has also received the support of Chen, Palmer & Partners. In the coming months we're looking forward to engaging the support of the wider community.

We believe all New Zealanders would want to see this country's amazing wildlife preserved and protected from disease, not to mention the health of their pets and themselves. We all have a stake in it. Already over 50 per cent of our native vertebrates are classified by DOC as threatened with extinction. Extinct means forever. So it's clear, that collectively, we have a lot of work to do. In supporting the NZCCM, everyone can contribute to helping ensure we move forwards, not backwards," says Penny Whiting.

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