New $2.5 million Wildlife Centre to open
New $2.5 million Wildlife Centre to open at Franz Josef
The brand new West Coast Wildlife Centre at Franz Josef, which will be the home to the breeding and incubation programme for New Zealand’s rarest kiwi, the rowi, will be officially opened this Friday, November 5, and open to the public a day later.
The $2.5 million indoor attraction, which is privately owned by the same team that operates Christchurch’s International Antarctic Centre, includes a natural forest walkthrough and kiwi viewing area, hands-on interactive activities for young adults and West Coast wild life film viewing areas.
Richard Benton, director of the West Coast Wildlife Centre, said that having a high quality indoor attraction such as this on the West Coast will be a great boost for tourism in the area.
“As well as the rowi, who will undoubtedly be the star attraction, the story telling area, that highlights earlier glacial periods and the gold mining history of Westland, is fascinating. The wildlife film is spectacular as it contains much footage taken at night of nocturnal animals seldom seen during the day,” he said.
Up to 12 people will be employed at peak season, including two fulltime wildlife rangers to look after the rowi. The Centre will be open 365 days a year.
Jim Livingstone, programme manager biodiversity for the Department of Conservation at Franz Josef, said that the rowi are only found living in the area and there are less than 400 birds in the wild.
“Despite an intensive DOC trapping programme, the rowi are on the brink of extinction. This breeding and incubation programme with the Wildlife Centre is a definite boost to the rowi programme,” he said.
The West Coast Wildlife Centre is sited within close proximity of rowi’s remaining natural refuge in Ökärito Forest and offers a VIP behind the scenes tour to get close up with New Zealand’s rarest kiwi.
“The partnership between DOC and the West Coast Wildlife Centre will have the capability of promoting rowi recovery through undertaking quality husbandry practice and fulfilling a valuable advocacy role.
“At present we are having to send eggs away for incubation. We will be able to undertake this at the Centre in future, meaning considerable cost efficiencies. It is an exciting step forward for the rowi programme,” Jim Livingstone said.