It had been some years since we last visited Wellington Zoo, and there had been many changes made, and areas still under construction. At the “Wild Theatre” the keepers arrange twice daily talks on different animals – we were between sessions so just walked on, arriving at “The Roost”. This was another new addition since our last visit. The incubation room was full of eggs being kept warm and carefully watched over. Chicks are hand reared, and the staff are careful that they develop only bird behaviours and do not grow up thinking they are human.
Lucky for us that the popular red pandas are active in the afternoon as we were quite keen to catch a glimpse of these pretty little animals. The red panda was first discovered by Western explorers in 1821, and their Chinese name is “hunho”, meaning fire-fox, due to their colouring and similar size to a fox. These little animals were real crowd pleasers as they climbed in the trees and walked a circuit around the pathways.
Two male lions were quite happy sunning themselves on the warm rocks. Oh, what a life, sooner or later dinner will be delivered.
The male baboon was not quite so laid back as we stopped outside his enclosure to check out the family group. He came running down the hill, raced up to the fence as he muttered and snarled at the onlookers, gave the fence a mighty thump, then raced away again. Wonder how many times a day he does that? Guess he doesn’t like all the nosy humans looking through the fence.
Ostriches and giraffes were sharing another enclosure. While the birds had their heads down at ground level fossicking around for goodies to eat, the giraffes were enjoying nibbling from their high feeders piled up with leafy twigs. Giraffes can spend up to 20 hours a day feeding when they can eat up to 66kg of food.
There is a troop of 13 chimpanzees at the zoo, and Malika, the youngest, was born in 2010. The chimps were enjoying themselves in the sunshine just hanging out together. Chimps first arrived at the zoo from London Zoo, and these young chimps used to participate in the very popular Chimpanzee Tea Parties. I can remember taking my young children along, joining the crowds of people who loved to see the chimps performing. Zoos are run with much different guidelines these days, with the emphasis on normal animal behaviour.
We wandered past the kangaroos and wallabies, the meercats and porcupines, and made our way to “The Tuck-Shop”, which was the Elephant House many years ago. Time for an ice-cream and a sit down, we decided.
“The Nest” is yet another new complex built since our last visit. The veterinary team have all the top of the range equipment needed to give the best of care to all the animals. The two main surgical rooms have large viewing windows and visitors are encouraged to watch procedures taking place, and the vets give a running commentary and invite questions. We saw a white faced heron having an x-ray, to try and determine what the problem was. Pacific Radiology have very generously donated all the zoo’s x-ray equipment.
Last stop was to look at the the otters. The Asian small clawed otters are the smallest of the otter species. Their streamlined, sinuous bodies make them marvellous aquatic hunters, and they enjoy a bit of rough and tumble as they play together in their enclosure. Clyde the otter caused an uproar in 1999 when he escaped from the zoo, and he was found hiding in a household property nearby. Escape artist Clyde was later moved to Mogo Zoo in Australia.
We stopped for a chat at the zoo shop on the way out to find out how successful the $5 Wednesday promotion had been. The staff were over the moon, they told us, and 3000 people had come through the gates that particular day. We reckon that 95% of them were young mothers with toddlers in pushchairs, and pre-schoolers, they were everywhere. It just goes to show what a combination of nice fine weather and dropping the prices will do – it certainly gets people out and about.