Wellington Zoo calls itself the “Best Little Zoo in the World,” and they just might be accurate. Having lived near large cities with somewhat famous zoos most of my life, I thought I had seen it all. Not so. Some of the unique animals at Wellington Zoo make it worth a visit.
More important than the animals at Wellington Zoo might be its strong conservation programme. Everything they do leads towards their goal of making a lasting change in the world.
“We are guided by our kaupapa, Me Tiaki, Kia Ora! We must look after our environment, so all things will flourish.”
The weather was warm and sunny but neither too hot nor too windy. The animals agreed, being active and playful.
Unique animals at Wellington Zoo
Interesting animals fill the zoo. While many are animals found at zoos around the world, there are a few that are quite unusual, either because of their status or as unique to New Zealand.
Malayan sun bear
The Malayan Sun Bear gets his name from that yellowish circle on his chest that looks like a rising sun. Classified as vulnerable, their native habitats are found in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.
The Malayan Sun Bear is the smallest of the world’s bear species. The female at the Wellington Zoo is currently the only bear in New Zealand.
We were lucky to see her active, as Sun bears are nocturnal. She stood on two legs for just a moment; we saw her distinguishing chest markings and those long sickle-shaped claws that make her such a good climber.
The Kiwi bird is a national icon of New Zealand. It’s also well-protected and nocturnal so spotting one in the wild is rare.
Even at Kiwi enclosures, they are often difficult to locate as enclosures are always in the dark. Flash photography is not allowed, so this shot was taken at an ISO of 25600 and then converted to black and white to filter out the red lighting of the enclosure.
“Lanky”, the pelican’s huge eyes, long neck, short legs, and big feet,\ made me smile.
Sadly, in April 2016, Lanky passed away, and New Zealand no longer has a pelican in captivity. Having been at the Wellington Zoo for 40 years, he was their longest-living resident.
Tasmanian devils are the world’s largest carnivorous marsupials. They are found in the wild only on Australia’s island of Tasmania and are classified as endangered.
Another one-of-a-kind for New Zealand, these two Caracals joined the animals at Wellington Zoo from Denmark only five months prior to our visit.
It’s no surprise that these nocturnal animals were not too active on the day we visited, they were awake, with their big ears reaching up to the sky.
From a photography standpoint, I was a bit disappointed to watch them from behind glass, but realizing they are great jumpers, I got over it.
Some of the more traditional animals at Wellington Zoo
It’s not all rare and unique animals at Wellington Zoo. Here we also found animals common in New Zealand zoos, as well as those frequently found in animal exhibits worldwide.
Little blue penguins
Native to New Zealand, these Little Blue Penguins are fairly common on our coasts and also found in southern Australia. They are one of several species of penguins in New Zealand.
They are the world’s smallest penguins, standing just over 25cm (10 inches) and weighing only about a kilogramme (2.2 pounds). They are flightless and use their wings for swimming.
Bolivian squirrel monkeys are found throughout South America. The zoo is home to a large troupe of squirrel monkeys.
Babies cling on to the mother’s back for months, so be sure to look closely when you visit. (there is not a baby in this photo)
The giraffes have both an inside and outside enclosure. While I was enjoying the heat of the day, these magnificent creatures came inside.
They do have daily feeding opportunities, but we missed it.
This is only a small sample of the animals at the zoo. Check the zoo’s official webpage to see a more complete list.
Educational encounters and zoo keeper talks
While the unusual animals at Wellington Zoo tend to appeal to everyone, there are also many kid-friendly learning opportunities. Since no young children were nearby, my teen demonstrated it for the shot. There is also conservation information throughout the zoo.
Throughout the day, there are zookeeper talks, often with a chance to get up close and personal with the animals.
A few practical tips for visiting Wellington Zoo
- The Wellington Zoo is one of the best things to do in Wellington with kids.
- We liked it so much that we featured it among our recommended Wellington Activities and on our list of things to do when travelling from Auckland to the capital city.
- It’s not a huge zoo, although it’s built on a hill. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.
- If you have favourite animals that you want to learn more about or you want to know when to feed the giraffes, be sure to check the daily schedule and plan your visit accordingly.
- We spent less than two hours at the zoo, saw all the animals and listened to one “zookeeper talk”.
- In addition to visiting the Wellington Zoo, while in the capital, be sure to check out the wildlife at Zealandia.
Getting to the Wellington Zoo
The zoo is located in Newton, about a 10-minute drive from downtown.
- Bicycle: There is a bicycle rack in front of the zoo for those inclined to get some extra exercise and help the environment. Hiring an electric bike is a great way to get to the zoo and see more of the city.
- Private Vehicle: The drive from downtown to the zoo is well-signposted. There is limited free parking, so our best tip for drivers is to get here early. If you are thinking about renting a car, we recommend Rentalcars.com. With worldwide rental partners and outstanding customer care, they have been our favourites since the first time we rented with them.
- Public Bus: Stopping right outside the Wellington Zoo, the number 23 or 23z bus is the easiest options from downtown. Check out Metlink for current timetables.
What are your favourite animals at Wellington Zoo?
For more on New Zealand, start here: New Zealand Road Trips: Itineraries for North or South Island Adventures, or you might like …
Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary entry to aid in writing this page. However, the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.