Zoo partners with Rotoroa

NEW PARTNERSHIP: Auckland Zoo will establish a wildlife sanctuary on Rotoroa Island, a 10 minute ferry trip from Orapiu.
NEW PARTNERSHIP: Auckland Zoo will establish a wildlife sanctuary on Rotoroa Island, a 10 minute ferry trip from Orapiu.

Auckland Zoo will mark its 90th birthday with a special partnership with Waiheke's neighbour, Rotoroa Island.

For over 100 years, Rotoroa was a place of sanctuary for those recovering from addiction and now this heritage of recovery, salvation and renewal is being realised anew through a nationally significant partnership with Auckland Zoo.

The partnership will see a wildlife sanctuary established on Rotoroa with the aim of saving some of New Zealand's most endangered native species from extinction.

Auckland Zoo director Jonathan Wilcken says New Zealand leads the world in island restoration projects for wildlife, and the Rotoroa Island partnership with the Zoo signals a new chapter in island restoration.

"For the past 90 years, Auckland Zoo has focused on creating a sanctuary for wildlife within the zoo grounds, but the Auckland Zoo of today is working more and more to save species in the wild," he says.

"It will see us extending the Zoo beyond our grounds in a way that's never been done before in New Zealand, using specialist zoo expertise to bring back, and manage a wide range of species on a remarkable island sanctuary.

"We'll also be establishing a unique schools programme to encourage students to get directly involved with the work of ecological restoration. We hope to see a whole generation of kids grow up with a sense of ownership in the renewal of Rotoroa Island as a wildlife sanctuary," he says.

The partnership between Auckland Zoo and Rotoroa Island is being funded by the Hutton Wilson Charitable Trust and is for $4 million over the next five years.

John Gow, Rotoroa Island trustee and owner of Connells Bay Sculpture Park, says creating a wildlife sanctuary on Rotoroa is a natural evolution of the work that's already gone into re-vegetating and restoring the island. Nearly 400,000 plants have been reintroduced to Rotoroa over the last five years, with plant selection based partly on coastline around Waiheke.

"Creating a sanctuary on Rotoroa Island for New Zealand's endangered wildlife is a natural extension to the Rotoroa Island Trust's current activities of protecting the island's conservation and heritage. It's a win-win situation for both parties."

Surveys of the existing birds, reptiles and invertebrates on Rotoroa Island, will begin later this month, and Auckland Zoo and the Rotoroa Island Trust will eventually build animal breeding and release facilities on the island.

Rotoroa Island is just a 10 minute ferry trip from Orapiu Wharf on Waiheke Island.

Visit rotoroa.org.nz