Kiwis can now embark on the first leg of an amazing wildlife experience through South East Asia with the opening of a new primate habitat for orangutans and siamangs at Auckland Zoo today – no passport required!
The new high canopy habitat completes phase one of the Zoo’s $60 million South East Asia Jungle Track - the most ambitious project in its 97-year history as part of a #FutureZoo renewals programme being funded through Auckland Council’s long-term plan.
Once complete, the Track, spanning one-fifth of the Zoo, will also feature habitats for Sumatran tigers, Asian small-clawed otters, Sunda gharial (crocodiles), fish, and other reptile species.
Infrastructure renewals, enhancing the purifying function of the Zoo’s lake and a stunning new 1000 m2 wharekai and function venue, Te Puna (‘the spring’) overlooking the lake have also been part of phase one.
Visitors enjoying coffee or lunch here will discover an impressive network of 25m high aerial pathways linking from the primate habitat out over the lake.
Now almost complete, these climbing pathways are among features that enable the effortlessly agile orangutans and siamangs to behave and move as they do in the wild – ranging up and across the rainforest’s high canopy, so in the near future, while hanging out on Te Puna’s deck, visitors could experience the thrill of these primates swinging by just metres away.
“Today marks the culmination of a simply epic journey to construct the first phase of our South East Asia Jungle Track experience that has utterly transformed a large part of Auckland’s zoo," says Auckland Zoo director, Kevin Buley.
"We are beyond excited to finally be able to show our community what we have built and for them to be able to explore the new habitat and home for our orangutans and siamang.
“In many ways it's actually difficult to believe we’ve finally made it to this point. The original concept for a new South East Asian area of the Zoo goes back over 10 years. It’s then been five years of planning and two and a half years of actually building the thing.
"It’s been a project that, in one way or another, has involved the entire Zoo whānau – staff, volunteers and visitors, and we can all now take collective delight – and no small amount of relief - about reaching this first finish line. The entire Track is a renewals programme that has only been made possible for the Zoo as a part of Regional Facilities Auckland with the fantastic support, trust, and backing of Auckland Council who have shared the excitement and vision of this unique endeavour.
“And it is unique. Not just to Aotearoa, but globally. The immersive new habitat provides an exciting and continually engaging environment for the orangutans and siamang and allows our primate staff to give them the very best care and animal welfare outcomes. It also delivers a truly original experience and perspective for our visitors to connect with wildlife and to develop an even deeper appreciation for the extraordinary natural world that we all share,” says Kevin.
Auckland Zoo primate team leader Amy Robbins who has worked with the Zoo’s orangutans and siamangs for almost 20 years, says the new habitat “is an absolute dream come true” and that both species made themselves completely at home as soon as they moved in.
“As well as working at the Zoo, I’m so lucky to spend a large part of my life in Sumatra working on conservation projects and Wild Work eco-adventures that Auckland Zoo supports where I get to connect people with amazing species like orangutans and siamangs.
"To see our orangutans and siamangs – ambassadors for their wild counterparts – having this immersive environment that so brilliantly provides for how I see their species behave in the wild, and ensures their absolute best care, is just wonderful.
“These primates are among the most intelligent, fascinating and extraordinary animals on our planet, and I can’t wait for our visitors to experience them here in their new home,” says Amy.
July Holidays Wildlife Explorers (1 - 19 July)
Discover the world (no passport required!) these July Holidays by venturing into Auckland Zoo with your whānau to take part in our Wildlife Explorers game.
Learn about some of the world’s most amazing animals including orangutans and siamangs, and, by playing Wildlife Explorers, be in with a chance to win a great prize pack.
To participate, just download the Goosechase App, search for Wildlife Explorers and start discovering the Zoo’s great Tracks – from Australia, Africa and Aotearoa to South America and South East Asia!