Wellington Zoo's longest serving keeper is retiring after 51 years.

Murray Roberts has been with the zoo since 1965, and for the first time since before humans set foot on the moon, won't be returning to the office on Monday morning.

But he can't quite go cold turkey - chief executive Karen Fifield says he'll stay on as a casual keeper.

"Five years ago, I said I didn't dare to think about the day that Murray would leave," Fifield said.


"However, I still won't - while he has retired from being a regular staff member Murray has chosen to continue working with us as a casual zoo keeper.

"Murray has also been a valued mentor and source of advice to our younger zoo staff, there is not much he hasn't seen in his time as a zoo keeper. He also has a wealth of stories about the zoo's history that he has always been happy to share with his colleagues.

"Murray has a natural way with animals, and has provided excellent care for so many of them during his time here. He has loved his job here, and always brings a positive joy with him into the zoo.

"Murray has worked across all sections of the zoo, from primates to carnivores and everywhere in between. In 1970, he began working with the elephants and cared for the much-loved Kamala.

"With a great photographic eye, he has also built up an impressive portfolio of images to showcase the animals that have inspired his passion for wildlife."

Roberts was thrown a special afternoon tea to celebrate his achievements and contribution.