Fiji's ecopark aims to save endangered species, writes Richard Moore.

Fiji's fabulous wildlife park is small in size - just 12 hectares in total - but it's big on what it has to offer.

Founded in 1997 from the ruins of a bankrupt bird park, Kula is now Fiji's only captive breeding facility whose aim is to protect the Pacific island nation's endangered species.

It is privately owned but has teamed up with many key wildlife organisations around the world including the Zoo and Aquarium Association of Australia & NZ, Sydney's Taronga Zoo and the Parks Board of NSW, and it's an honorary associate of the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia.

A key focus is reptiles - iguanas and snakes. But, it also has birds - colourful parrots, doves and water birds - bats and marine exhibits, including tropical fish, turtles and soft coral.

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Its bushwalk/natural trail along a 1km boardwalk has information stations pointing out many of the native plants and how the Fiji islands' inhabitants have traditionally used them - for medicine as well as cooking.

But it's not just a look and see park. Visitors can get up close and personal with some of the residents.

Kula's collection includes once-injured critters rescued from the wild. Others have been bred and hand-reared at the park with the aim of boosting native populations.

It has received money from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund to build a captive breeding programme and head-start facility for the genetically unique Monuriki crested iguana.

Because some of its iguanas and snakes have been hand-reared and are used to being handled, Kula lets visitors handle them. The park team see it as one way of educating children, and their often just-as-inquisitive parents.

The park is Fiji's only free hands-on Environmental Education Centre for school children. They learn about how the ecosystems work, how they are being destroyed, how they can protect them and why it is important to do so.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
15 Feb, 2016 6:00am
2 minutes to read

Since its inception, Kula has won eight Fiji Excellence in Tourism and Best Fiji Experience awards; the international Society of American Travel Writers' Phoenix Award in 2012 and, in the same year, the Excellence in Tourism Sustainability award.

The park is within walking distance of Outrigger Fiji Resort, or resort staff can organise transport.

- AAP