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Zoo Goes ‘Ape’ Over Exhibit Award

Zoo Goes ‘Ape’ Over Exhibit Award


Orana Wildlife Park’s Great Ape Centre, home to New Zealand’s only gorillas, has been recognised as an “outstanding achievement in animal housing and exhibit design” by the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia (ZAA). Orana won the Large Institution, Large Scale Exhibit Award at the biennial ZAA conference, held in Perth last week. The exhibit was assessed on: improved animal welfare, improved work practices, visitor experience, outcomes (conservation, research and education), innovative features, sustainability and cost effectiveness.

ZAA is the peak body representing the zoo and aquarium community throughout Australasia. The Association has 99 member organisations.

Chief Executive, Lynn Anderson, is delighted: “The award is fantastic recognition for the amazing effort by our crew, and of course the contractors – especially Ian Cumberpatch Architects and Strongline South (Project Manager), who went above and beyond to deliver this project. It is extremely gratifying to win this award especially since it was judged by our peers”.

The $6M Great Ape Centre, that opened in July 2015, is the single biggest project completed in Orana’s history. “This development really was a champion effort by our team; as a charitable trust, we raise 100% of funds for all such developments, which was a massive task. Significant consultation and background research was carried out to ensure we built an innovative and sustainably focussed habitat. The care requirements for gorillas are very complex and called for some creative design features to ensure the habitat meets the highest standards of animal welfare. Amongst a range of features, the exhibit provides specially blended grass with edible herbs in the 1500m2 outdoor habitat, 500mm eco-chip floor in the 453m3 indoor area, which serves as a foraging activity, and extensive play equipment both indoors and out.”

“The gorillas are simply magnificent and have captured the attention of staff, volunteers and visitors who have been enthralled at their antics. We are delighted to have joined the international zoo-based programme for this critically endangered species” adds Lynn.

Originally staff were planning a Gorilla Habitat for completion in 2013. The earthquakes resulted in the project being placed on hold for two years due to significantly reduced visitation and income. “The delays enabled our team to review the concept. Through extensive consultation, the Great Ape Centre is designed to hold two species of great apes (in completely separate areas) within the one complex. We are excited to report that Sumatran orang-utans are planned to arrive later this year” concludes Lynn.

This is the third ZAA Exhibit Design award that Orana has received, but the first time the zoo has won the Large Exhibit category (over $500,000 construction cost). This is a significant achievement considering Orana qualifies as a Large Institution (turnover of over 1.5M) meaning our habitat was judged against much larger zoos throughout Australasia with immensely higher project budgets. The Park has twice won the Small Exhibit Award (exhibits costing less than $500,000) for the walk-through Kea Aviary (2010) and Siamang Gibbon Habitat (2006).

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