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NZ’s only open range zoo begins new era

Media release – December 20, 2006

NZ’s only open range zoo Orana Wildlife Park begins new era with new home for tigers, more rhino and breeding lion

Orana Wildlife Park, New Zealand’s only open range zoo, will start the next 30 years of its life in 2007 with a new home for tigers, more rhino and a breeding male lion.

Orana Park is adding two massive female white rhino, a new breeding male lion and a male siamang gibbon ape to pair with its female, Peggy. Two rare tigers moved into their new $500,000 home just before Christmas.

The state of the art tiger area is now housing two critically-endangered Sumatran tigers from the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, Australia. Tigers had been absent from Orana for seven years.

The park needs a new breeding lion after Toby died suddenly this year. Toby was Orana’s sole breeding male so his loss was a tragedy for the park. Work on the lion’s den in 2007 will provide room to increase the size of the lion pride.

The Christchurch wildlife park celebrated its 30th anniversary in November by re-introducing tigers, to an impressive new tiger area.

The park has grown from six species and 20 odd animals in 1976 to 400 animals from more than 70 species today.

More than four million visitors have been to Orana which has become an internationally recognised zoo and has reached many significant milestones since 1976.

The park first established a reputation for having New Zealand’s only drive-through lion reserve from 1976 to 1995.

``Today visitors can hand feed giraffe, meet rhino “face-to-face”, see the speed of the world’s fastest land mammal the cheetah and travel through the lion habitat on board a feeding wagon for very close views,’’ Orana chief executive Lynn Anderson says.

They are one of only 20 captive institutions worldwide successfully breeding cheetah. In fact, Orana has received international recognition for achieving repeated breeding success with cheetah – a species notoriously difficult to breed in captivity. In total, 11 cheetahs have been bred at the park.

They have been involved in the breeding programme for Rothschild’s giraffes for over 20 years and have bred 13 giraffes.

Over 80 scimitar-horned oryx have been bred at the Park. This species was declared extinct in the wild (but captive management programmes have enabled them to be re-populated in some areas).

Orana is the only major zoo in New Zealand that is not owned and operated by local government. Therefore its operational costs are not highly subsidised by the ratepayer and all capital developments are separately fundraised for from outside sources.

``Today, Christchurch has an internationally recognised zoo which has been developed without burden on the ratepayer. To date, less than $5 million has been spent constructing Orana Wildlife Park and this is significantly less than many major zoos currently spend on a single new exhibit for one species,’’ Anderson said.

During the year the park won five awards including one for its design of the ape island. They produced two baby giraffes, two lemurs, a waterbuck and springbok. During the year Orana animal keepers fed nearly 30,000kg of meat to its animals.

Orana offers more than imported wild animals. It has developed a habitat that plays a huge part in protecting native species.

Since 2000, 52 endangered NZ species have been bred at the park and released to the wild.

Twenty-three nationally endangered blue duck ducklings bred at the park during the last five breeding seasons have been released back to the wild near Mt Taranaki as part of the Department of Conservation (DoC) recovery programme. Since the programme started in 2000, more than 25 percent of all blue ducks released to the wild have been bred at the park.

Twenty-seven brown teal have been successfully raised and all have been released to the wild in three different locations. A further twelve teal have been bred this season. The park also breeds North Island brown kiwi as part of the managed captive programme. Two Orana-bred kiwi have been released to the wild this year.

The spotted skink, a lizard thought to be extinct in the Christchurch area, was recently confirmed to be living on the grounds at Orana Wildlife Park. Additional predator traps are in place so the spotted skink has a safe habitat in which to survive and hopefully multiply.

Orana’s natural setting provides a habitat where more than 20 NZ native species live including: NZ scaup, shoveller, pukeko, pied stilt, grey teal, spotted skink, Australasian coot, oystercatchers, spur winged plovers, white faced herons, paradise shelduck, bellbirds, skinks, native stick insects and wetas.

The majority of Park waste is recycled. Of particular note, animal faecal matter is processed into garden fertiliser that is sold in the South Island under the brand name “Zoo Doo”. The park received a Target Zero award for these efforts.

Ends

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