You may not be too surprised to hear that I love zoos and aquariums. I basically just turn into a super-geeky big kid (because I totally act like an adult the rest of the time, ahem). So I didn’t hesitate for even a millisecond when one of my friends asked if I wanted to go to Auckland Zoo… We were incredibly lucky with the weather – it was sunny and fairly warm all day – perfect for a day of wandering outside discovering a new zoo!
Auckland Zoo has a Kiwi House, which I was totally excited about. I hadn’t ever seen a kiwi before (unsurprisingly, since they’re endangered, don’t do terribly well in cities and are most active at night… Oh and also endemic to NZ) and they’re only the national bird and all… Let me tell you – they’re adorable. And bigger than I was expecting. I thought they were about the size of your fist, but no, North Island brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) are a bit bigger than a chicken. I’ve clearly only been looking at photos of kiwi chicks (which I think should be called kiwilets – how cute does that sound?). Woops. To be fair, birds aren’t really my area of zoological expertise. Aaanyway, so kiwi may be super-cute, but they’re also super-difficult to get a photo of because most of the kiwi display is darker than my camera could pick up. The only part where there’s enough light for a photo is right up against the viewing window, and one of the kiwi spent the longest time foraging with great enthusiasm just outside the zone of enough light. So I have about 20 photos of some leaves surrounded by blackness, but if you edit them to within an inch of their lives, you come out with this:
Not my best ever photo, but
oh my gosh it’s a real live kiwi in the middle of foraging! it’s better than the original which really just looks like some leaves and a lot of black. It’s also rather better than the one photo that I did manage to get whilst the kiwi ventured into the zone of enough light for photos. This is what a kiwi’s backside looks like, in case you’ve ever wondered:
Along with the excellently-done part all about native New Zealand fauna, parts of the rest of the zoo are also themed – the African savannah, the primates, Australian fauna and the tropics. Some of the animals seemed a bit randomly placed though, such as the otters that seem to be in the primate section, and the red pandas, of which there are two, but not particularly near to each other. There might be a logic to that, but it escapes me. Most of the paths to get around are twisty, so not ideal if you want to get anywhere quickly since there aren’t a lot of direct routes, but zoos are all about sauntering along anyway. And if you are in a slight rush to get to, say, the penguin feeding, it’s fairly easy to just
knock a few small kids out of your way bypass those that are in less of a hurry.
If you’re wondering why those penguins look a little bit blue-ish, that’s because they’re actually blue. Blue penguins, I know – I totally didn’t know they existed either, but how super-cute and adorable are they? I’d really like one as a pet, or even two so that they could keep each other company. Too bad that’s totally illegal. Anyway, these little blue penguins (Eudyptula minor) or korora to give them their Māori name, are found in New Zealand. And just like all penguins, they’re hilarious to watch. These ones are also all rescue penguins, so a couple of them only have one flipper (which only gives them difficulties when trying to dive, but otherwise doesn’t affect them too badly in captivity. Obviously in the wild they’d probably get munched on by something pretty quickly…).
The twisty nature of the paths does make it a little difficult to find your way around, so I would definitely recommend getting hold of a map if you want to make sure that you see everything. Apparently you have to pay for maps, but you can download one for free from the zoo’s website before you go if you’re feeling stingey. It’s also worth checking which animals are being fed on the day that you’re there – the keepers talk about the animals whilst they feed them. And the giraffe feeding is a particular treat – it’s actually the visitors that do the feeding (though we watched this from afar because the concentration of small children in the queue was a little too high for us to handle). Talking of feeding, there is a café on site (called Darwin’s which, can I just say, is a great name) that sells sandwiches, pies, burgers, etc., but you can also bring a packed lunch since there are various grassy areas around the zoo where you could have a picnic.
Anyway, enough babbling from me – photos are much more interesting:
Wherever you are, enjoy the rest of your day!
PS – I had initially intended to post this last Tuesday, but since I took
400 quite a few photos, it’s taken me a while to sort through them… I told you I get over-enthusiastic about zoos.
PPS – Any OCD scientists out there that are upset that the binomial species names in the slideshow captions aren’t italicised… It stresses me out, too. I tried really hard but just couldn’t get it to work.