Double-cab ute carries array of critters for Auckland Zoo, writes Liz Dobson

Tineke Joustra's official title at Auckland Zoo is registrar but she reckons it should be "travel agent for animals".

Her job is to move species of all shapes and sizes from the zoo to new homes, or arrange for animals to head to Auckland -- usually as part of a breeding programme.

But it's not as simple as booking a ticket for the animal on a plane or truck, instead it takes months of organisation making sure the trip is as stress-free as possible for the animal. Then there is the paperwork for import or export permits plus the average 30-day quarantine period for outgoing and incoming critters.

While trucks and planes are vital for Tineke's job, the most important transportation at Auckland Zoo is the Mazda New Zealand-sponsored BT-50 double-cab ute.


It is used for small animal transportation and recent passengers have included saddleback, kiwi, North Island kaka, plus four Aussies immigrating here -- three male and one female Tasmanian devils.

As it has an enclosed tray, vets and zookeepers use the rear of the ute to store their equipment and medicine securely when they are off-site.

Tineke, a former zookeeper and vet nurse, often drives the BT-50.

"It feels great, it's lovely to drive. I wish I could take it home," she says. "You feel like the queen of the road in the Mazda, you're so high up in it."

Part of Tineke's role is also to secure the animals' crates in the ute. The five kaka crates were transported in the back seat of the double cab as the wooden boxes fitted in "snuggly" while the Tasmanian devils were placed in the tray.

"All four crates fitted perfectly in the tray of the ute. It's like playing tetris sometimes, but they all fitted perfectly so there wasn't much movement," says Tineke.

The ute was also used when a resident giraffe was being relocated via boat to an Australian zoo, though the crate wasn't placed on the BT-50 for the trip to the waterfront.

Due to the height of the giraffe's crate, the transportation truck couldn't travel from the zoo's Western Springs location to Auckland's port via the motorway.

Instead the truck had to manoeuvre through Mt Eden to avoid motorway bridges with the ute used as the escort vehicle, carrying the zookeepers and their luggage.

Tineke had to contact transport agencies before the trip, giving them the exact measurement of the crate plus its height once it was on the low loader trailer.

"We ask the transport agencies to check it out for us because we don't want to be a centimetre out and they know the roads exactly," says Tineke.

While that was a tall trip for the BT-50, upcoming passengers for it include four male meerkats who are heading to an Australian zoo, and squirrel monkeys from Adelaide relocating to Auckland.

But it's New Zealand locals that are frequent passengers in the ute.

"When we do kiwi releases we drive them to the downtown ferry in the ute," says Tineke.

"So it is used a lot."