Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Zoo's $7 million slice of Africa open for Easter

The African Savanna precinct will be open to the public from Good Friday. Photo / Auckland Zoo
The African Savanna precinct will be open to the public from Good Friday. Photo / Auckland Zoo

Auckland Zoo's new and improved $7 million slice of Africa will be open just in time for Easter.

The finishing touches are being put to the project which has seen an estimated 37,000 man hours put into it over the past 10 months.

Named the African Savanna precinct, it will open to the public on Good Friday with its collection of meerkats, giraffes and other animals that hail from the African plains.

Auckland Zoo director Jonathan Wilcken said the redevelopment helped unite all its African animals, gave them a new and improved place to live and gave visitors greater views of the animals in their new habitat.

"It's about trying to reconnect an increasingly urbanised population with the natural world and give people a sense of emotional involvement in the future of the various species."

This latest project is part of Auckland's Zoo's overall 10-year redevelopment plan that was expected to cost around $120 million.

The zoo redevelopment will help unite all its African animals. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The zoo redevelopment will help unite all its African animals. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It'll be followed later on in the year by an Australian freshwater and reptile exhibit, and a Wild Asia rainforest precinct. Towards the end of the decade the northern end of the precinct will also be redeveloped.

Mr Wilcken said the plan would not only help improve the animal's habitats, but give people a greater understanding of the plight faced by many of the world's species.

This latest project is part of Auckland's Zoo's overall 10-year redevelopment plan. Photo / Auckland Zoo
This latest project is part of Auckland's Zoo's overall 10-year redevelopment plan. Photo / Auckland Zoo

"We need to excite and motive the community, motivate them to do what they can to help protect species that otherwise are just disappearing in the wild. About a third of all wild animal species that we know are on a trajectory to extinction."

He said if nothing was done about it the situation for these species would be dire.

"About a third of all we know would be extinct in a generation or two unless we change."

Mr Wilcken said it had been many years since the zoo, which was now 94, had been given such a comprehensive overhaul.

"It has been developed over those 94 years in a fairly ad-hoc way."

Auckland Zoo

• Home to 138 different species and more than 875 animals

• It has the largest collection of native and exotic animals in the country

• Its $120 million 10-year redevelopment plan is currently underway

• 37,000 man hours were put into the redevelopment of the African Savannah precinct

• It sees 700,000 visitors a year

- NZ Herald

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