Sunday, December 16, 2012

At the Zoo 90 years after it opened

Sunday 16th December (today) is the 90th anniversary of the official opening of Auckland Zoo back in 1922. 

Previous zoo visit posts:

Other Auckland Zoo posts:

So, I set out to visit the zoo, and wish it a happy birthday by taking my final set of photos for this year. The admission fee for an adult has gone up, from $22 to $25 -- but now the map, which cost $2, is free. Still not a bad deal.

At just after 9.30 am, heat was starting to bite, and the tigers were snoozing. Still, I'd rather see a sleeping tiger than a dead one.

Darwin's is, I suppose, the successor to the zoo kiosk which was a feature of the zoo from c.1923. The Moodabes, later of Amalgamated Cinemas fame here in Auckland, briefly had a concession at the zoo kiosk in the early 1920s. Today, though, Darwin's puts me off because of price. I know, captive economy and all that ... but, when looking for an ice cream later on, I didn't have much luck, despite the variety on offer. Instead, I got a small tub of very creamy and very nice vanilla ice cream from the small kiosk just at the entrance.

Some months ago, I bought this 1970s postcard of the zoo's dragon. Going back to the zoo to photograph the dragon now was part of the reason why I trekked there today.

And ... here it is.

Now, sorry to be a grizzler here, but -- the 2012 dragon doesn't look as look as the 1970s one to me. It looks ... plastic. Like some child's toy bought at a $2 shop. In the 1970s, it looked like a proper dragon. But then again, I hear kids love it anyway ...

Glad to see the tuatara hasn't changed much, though -- and it's still there.

Brunch for this lioness.

The rhinos were stars today. Normally stationary, with their backsides to our cameras, today they were on the move. Here, they've just completed a thorough sniff inspection of the communal dung pile, watched one of their team have a very long-lasting wee, and are now proceeding at an amble to sort out what the rest of the morning had to offer.

Flamingos -- my camera can't quite seem to pick up just how pink they are. But I don't mind this shot.

Another reason for today's visit -- the cheetahs Anubis and Osiris. The cheetah encounter consists of the zookeepers lecturing us, and we watched them get fed bits of rabbit and unidentifiable meat.

The serval remains an elusive creature for me to photograph well. Poor thing just kept pacing from the far corner, round the back, then to the far corner again. Over and over and over.

Couldn't capture the seals properly either -- but I still had fun watching them swim by. Always in the same direction, though. I did wonder what was stopping them from changing pattern and going the other way.

Without an albatross, the zoo have installed the next best thing: a model of an albatross.

Burma in her enclosure, around 11 am, an hour to go before the elephant encounter session. She stayed at that spot near her pool for ages, lifting and lowering her left foreleg, and swaying slightly.

Lots of free range chooks around the place. And some particularly loud roosters.

Briefly back to the rhinos ... sleeping in the heat ...

11.15 am, the giraffe feeding encounter. Said subject giraffe keen as mustard, loitering close to Platform 2.

While all that was going on, one of the zebras paused within range of the camera for a bit of a neck scratch.

On the way back towards Burma's enclosure, the rhinos yet again ...

Just before her encounter session, Burma was given a bit of a scrub-up by her keepers ...

Then around to the rear of her enclosure, for dusting, and teeth inspection (one of her four teeth is loose, so they later told us).

Then, back to the front for her admiring fans.

Another bath ...

Checking all of her feet for sores, stones etc ...

Dust to replace the dust washed off ...

Then a demonstration with a log, rolling it across the enclosure.

Then, a bit of circus. I was surprised they did this with her. Is balancing on top of something exercise for an elephant, or just performance?

The keepers reassured the crowd that, while Burma is by herself (as elephants shouldn't be, being highly intelligent and social animals), and they haven't so their intended young elephants yet (from which, going by what was said, they hope will breed a number of young elephants in turn), she is still contented. If she showed signs of not being contented, they'd send her to Australia, where other Asian elephants are -- but she is contented (they said) so she's staying. I still think they should consider her welfare needs and send her to a park in Australia where she can socialise again.

Off to Te Wao Nui, and this is an Otago skink.

Best of a lot of blurred shots of a kea ...

Today I finally got to see kiwi at the zoo, after years of trying to peer into the dark of the old Kiwi House (today, in the nocturnal display, I saw two) -- and also got to see a red panda, again instead of peering unsuccessfully looking for one in the enclosure.

And through it all, as 1pm came and went, the tigers still snoozed in Auckland's summer heat.


  1. Great post and great photos. A little concerned for Burma though. Auckland Zoo should rally seriously let her go to Australia and into a social group situation. She needs to be with other elephants.

  2. Grand photos. Why can't Auckland get another elephant? Not that she would not be welcome here.

  3. Waiting for suppliers, I think, Andrew. They've been waiting now for more than two years, and while Auckland Council are still giving them thumb's up, nothing yet.

  4. An excellent walkabout and excellent photos to accompany it! I haven't been to the zoo for years – I'm not sure that the entrance fee is reasonable any more; if only they'd introduce a "free days" system for Auckland-area residents like their neighbour MoTaT. I was interested in your comments on the kiosk: when I was a little kid, my mother was closely involved in establishing the long lived (but now long gone) cactus and succulent garden. We used to get free entry while it was being made, and to do subsequent maintenance. Thinking back, my favourite things were all those that are now politically incorrect, the chimps' tea party, the polar bears, rides on Jamuna the elephant ...! However, the real highlight was being given two shillings to spend at the kiosk with its wonderful range of ice creams, sandwiches, pies, cakes, milk shakes, etc. I guess in this case the more things change the more they don't stay the same.

  5. Thanks, Phil. The original zoo kiosk in the 1920s was a bit of a story in itself. Like other Council-owned kiosks around Auckland, in the days of high teas and all the trimmings, there were problems with concession holders, complaints about dirty dishes reused from one customer to another with no dishwash in between, prices, personalities, opening hours ... it was all on. I've been having an interesting time going through the parks committee minutes to help my friend Liz with her ongoing timeline history (link above) so snippets like that about the Moodabes just stick in the ol' noggin.

    If I find anything about the cactus and succulent garden, I'll let you know.

  6. Yikes … that heads-up on the kiosk hygiene is several decades late! Mind you, I wondered why the girl who made the ice cream cones licked her scoop whenever she changed flavours. Sorry, just kidding.

  7. The Zoo Dragon. Gees that brought back great memories. I spent hours running up and down the back of that dragon and sitting in its mouth pretending It was under my spell lol. Thanks Jim Bevan for the great memories. Precious xoxoxo