Auckland Zoo is a centre for conservation activities both domestically and around the world 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.
Our most recent visit was in August 2019. At this time, the centre of the zoo is heavily under renovations. This means lower prices, but still plenty of fascinating experiences, and an ongoing and impressive behind-the-scenes conservation effort. Auckland Zoo animals represent 135 different species and more than 1,400 total animals.
Auckland Zoo animal 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.)
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Unique New Zealand birds
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.
Endangered New Zealand Dotterel
Endemic to New Zealand, the dotterel is now on the endangered list. 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 penguin.
Endangered Campbell Island Teal
The endangered Campbell Island Teal is flightless, one of the world’s smallest ducks, and endemic to New Zealand.
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.
Other Unique Auckland Zoo animals
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.
More on Auckland Zoo conservation efforts
- A portion of the entrance fees is used for funding conservation activities in the wild.
- 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.
- One of the most successful programs to date 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.
More adorable Auckland Zoo animals
In my opinion, the Bolivian squirrel monkeys are amongst the cutest Auckland Zoo animals. They are quick, jumping, bouncing, and climbing in the zoo’s rainforest area.
Auckland Zoo lions
The international breeding programme plans are for the future addition of young female lionesses to join these two half brothers.
An Australian native, these colourful Gouldian finches are decreasing in numbers, mostly due to illegal poaching.
The yawning tiger shows 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. Currently, there are none. 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.)
A favourite feature at the zoo are the tunnels that allow visitors to pop their head up (under a glass dome) inside the meerkat enclosure.
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.
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Planning tips for Auckland
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First-time visitors start here: New Zealand travel guide or with our favourite New Zealand road trips.
Rental Vehicles: For cars, we always use RentalCars.com, a rental car search engine with no hidden costs. For campervans (and larger cars), note that Spaceships Rentals NZ offers free one-way drop-off between Auckland and Christchurch.
**Albom Adventures readers can check for discounts off Spaceships campervans.**
Accommodations: We typically stay in 4-star accommodations. We live in Auckland and recommend either Hotel DeBrett or Cordis (if you’re on a tight budget, check out the backpacker options on Tripadvisor)
Activity Discounts: We use Bookme.co.nz to find discounts on entry tickets and tours in New Zealand.
Travel Insurance: We purchase insurance that covers medical and travel emergencies when we head overseas. We start with Travel Insurance Master, an aggregator that gives us a free and easy-to-read comparison of the inclusions of each policy.
What to bring: Get a free copy of our New Zealand packing list when you sign up for our mailing list.
**Find more money-saving resources on our Travel Resources page.
Which are your favourite Auckland Zoo animals?
Disclaimer: I was provided with entry to take these photos; however, the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.