Interesting Auckland Zoo animals is only one reason to visit. In fact, it is a centre for conservation activities domestically and worldwide, with extensive breeding and rescue programs.
They are much more than just a zoo, with breed and release programs in place for certain species.
Despite my mixed feelings about animals in captivity, the Auckland Zoo is making a difference to help save our planet.
Auckland Zoo animals represent 135 different species and more than 1,400 total animals.
As American expats who have been living in and exploring NZ for over 20 years, we see things from both a local’s perspective and from that of a visitor. Therefore, we understand what it’s like to come here and have things be similar, but not always exactly what we are used to. We share the information on this page from this perspective.
Auckland Zoo animals enrichment
Talk about being in the right place. We were passing by as it was time for the cheetahs’ daily stimulating walk. The keepers explained this allows these animals to “patrol their territory”. (These cheetahs were hand-raised.)
New Zealand natives among the Auckland Zoo animals
On a recent visit, my Auckland Zoo photos focused on the endemic birdlife in the redeveloped NZ natives section Te Wao Nui. It loosely translates to “the abundant forest.” Three bird aviaries allow the natives to fly in habitats that emulate their homes.
Why birds? New Zealand is a bird nation, a feathered friend’s paradise. New Zealand’s only indigenous mammals are bats and sea lions, and there are still no snakes in the country.
Of course, they are not the only New Zealand natives at the zoo.
Endangered New Zealand dotterel
Endemic to New Zealand, the dotterel is now on the endangered list. While not currently on dispaly, the zoo offers veterinary care for them. Read more about the dotterels at Shakespear Park.
Little Blue penguins
Native to New Zealand, little blue penguins are only 25cm tall, making them the world’s smallest penguins. While we have seen them at Auckland Zoo, seeing them in the wild is a much bigger thrill.
We frequently spot them when sailing in the Hauraki Gulf, but our biggest thrill was watching a raft of them return home just outside the Royal Albatross Centre in Dunedin. Importantly, there are plenty of places to spot penguins in the wild in NZ.
Recently, the Department of Conservation began calling them Little Penguins, but to me, they will always be little blues.
Endangered Campbell Island teal
The endangered Campbell Island Teal is flightless, one of the world’s smallest ducks, and endemic to New Zealand. They are not currently on display, but I thought I would include this image from a prior visit.
Kea, the world’s only mountain parrot, is native to New Zealand’s South Island. These clever birds can be a bit mischievous. We have heard stories of them landing on cars and picking at the rubber around the windows.
If seeing a kiwi bird is high on your list of things to do in New Zealand, the Auckland Zoo will offer one of your best opportunities. Foraging for food only after dark, these nocturnal birds are rarely spotted in the wild.
To date, the Auckland Zoo has hatched and released (once old enough) 384 kiwi birds back to the forests of their origin.
Please note: The image is not of the Auckland zoo kiwi birds. I took this shot at the Wellington Zoo and displayed it here for your viewing.
Endemic to New Zealand, the tuatara is the last living relative of a reptile species that thrived during the times of the dinosaurs. We have also seen tuatara at Zealandia (Wellington), the Wellington Zoo, and at Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin.
If you still want to see more natives, check out this list of unique New Zealand animals.
More adorable Auckland Zoo animals
In my opinion, the Bolivian squirrel monkeys are amongst the cutest Auckland Zoo animals. They jump, bounce, and climb quickly in the zoo’s rainforest area.
Squirrel monkeys are found in the rainforests of Central and South America and are listed as least concern (but decreasing population). They have excellent vision and colour perception, allowing them to see in the dim light of the forest.
Auckland Zoo lions
The international breeding programme plans to add young female lionesses to join these two half brothers. On one particular visit, ages ago, we were invited behind the scenes where Jeff got an opportunity to feed the lions by pressing meat up against the fence. Don’t worry; they made sure his fingers were well out of danger!
While this was a totally cool opportunity, I still think the best lion encounter in the country is at Orana Park, the Zoo in Christchurch.
In the wild, lions are found in sub-Saharan Africa and are listed as a vulnerable species. Lions are the only social big cats, living in groups called prides. Females do most of the hunting, and males defend the pride’s territory.
An Australian native, these colourful Gouldian finches are decreasing in numbers and are now endangered, mostly due to illegal poaching. They have brightly colored feathers, and males have different head colors, which help them attract mates. They are also known for their acrobatic flying skills.
Honestly, I was a bit sad to learn that these beautiful endangered Asian elephants now live in zoos in Australia. There are currently no elephants among the Auckland Zoo animals.
In the wild, they are the largest land animal in Asia and have a highly social structure, living in herds led by females. They are also known for their intelligence and have been observed using tools and showing empathy towards other elephants.
This yawning tiger showed his teeth. He is a critically endangered Sumatran Tiger, one of three at the zoo at the time I took this shot back in 2013.
While these three tigers are no longer at the zoo, their places have been taken by three other tigers. Our favourite big cat photographer is Steve Winter of National Geographic. (He shared some of his photos with us when I interviewed him a few years ago.)
I’ll have to admit, despite having done it many times, feeding the giraffes at the zoo is still a highlight of every visit.
In the wild, giraffes are found in sub-Saharan Africa and are listed as vulnerable. They are the tallest land mammal and have long necks, which they use to reach leaves on tall trees. They also have a unique walking style, moving both legs on one side of their body at the same time.
Wild meerkats are found in southern Africa. They are highly social animals, living in groups called mobs. They have a unique lookout system, with one member of the mob always standing guard while the others forage for food.
A favourite feature at the zoo, especially when our girls were younger, is the tunnels that allow visitors to pop their heads up (under a glass dome) inside the meerkat enclosure. It offers a different perspective to the curious animal.
More on Auckland Zoo conservation efforts
- A portion of the entrance fees is used to fund wild conservation activities.
- The zoo’s breed and release programme’s focus is on endangered New Zealand animals. The ultimate goal is to grow populations by releasing species back into their native wild habitat.
- To date, one of the most successful programs was the breed and release of the world’s heaviest insect, the wētāpunga. Originally able to find only 12, the team has released over 4,000 on Hauraki Gulf islands.
- The zoo worked with the Department of Conservation (DOC) to establish a wildlife reserve on nearby Rotoroa Island, which has been opened to visitors.
- Read more about the zoo’s impressive conservation efforts.
Visiting Auckland Zoo
- The Auckland Zoo is located on Motions Road, off of the Northwestern Motorway in Western Springs. See the map below.
- Open every day (except Christmas) from 9.30-5.30pm.
- There are a few spots to get food in the zoo, plus plenty of areas for a picnic if you bring your own lunch. Remember, don’t feed the animals.
- Learn from the zookeepers at one of several daily animal encounters that take place at different animal enclosures.
- As a sustainable organization, Auckland Zoo does not sell single-use water bottles or disposable coffee cups. Therefore you need to bring your own or buy one at the Zoo gift shop.
- To see the whole zoo takes most of the day. There is a tram that runs from the Zoo to MOTAT or MOTAT’s Aviation Hall if you are looking for an additional activity without moving the car.
Check for discount entry tickets to Auckland Zoo
Always check for discounts in New Zealand
We always check 100% New Zealand owned bookme for discounts before we visit any venues or participate in activities. They frequently feature different discounts depending on the day and time you choose for your activity.
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More from Auckland you might also like … starting with these 75 free and nearly free things to do in the city
Disclaimer: I was provided with entry to take these photos; however, the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.