The curious kea at Ngā Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae are missing their human friends.

While many local businesses get set up with online offerings, Ngā Manu has no option but to wait until at least level 2 to allow visitors back to the reserve.

"We depend on admissions for about 50 per cent of our revenue so there has been a big drop for us," Ngā Manu manager Matu Booth said.

As a not-for-profit charity, caring for more than 100 native birds and animals, including kiwi, whio, kākā, kea and tuatara, Ngā Manu relies on visitor entry fees, tours and experiences for income.


"Half of our income is derived from our visitors and our food and electricity costs amount to $30,000 a year, which hasn't changed with lockdown.

"There will be an impact from overseas tourists not able to visit but it's locals who make up a lot of our numbers - locals, schools and educators."

Eel feeding at Ngā Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae.
Eel feeding at Ngā Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae.

Unsure what level 2 will look like for them, staff are working on a plan where visitors can safely enter the nocturnal house and smaller encloses, most likely having a "one bubble in, one bubble out" policy.

"When you take people out the picture, all of a sudden it becomes a ghost town," Booth said.

The welcoming mallards (ducks), which normally sit on the front lawn looking for food from visitors, have had to adapt without their usual food source.

Very used to being fed by visitors, as soon as they hear the rustling of a brown paper bag full of food they are there, surrounding the visitors, fighting for the food.

"They sat around for a week wondering what had happened as all of a sudden their food supply was cut.

"Then they had to re-learn what it was to be a mallard and forage in the pond for themselves."


Although the curious, confident birds have missed human contact, Booth said most of the wildlife have adapted well.

"The animals have been pretty good, some species are happy to have less attention but the parrot birds such as the kea and kākā have to adapt.

"The kea are curious birds that are always looking for stimulation.

"We have been looking after them throughout the lockdown though.

"There was someone there every morning and afternoon to check on them, feed them, and do cleaning and maintenance, and we are now we are able to increase our staff numbers in level 2."

A barking gecko at Ngā Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae. Photo / Rosalie Willis
A barking gecko at Ngā Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae. Photo / Rosalie Willis

Ngā Manu's commitment to the well-being of their captive animals is its highest priority.

Throughout lockdown and continuing forward, supplying them with the foods they need to thrive and environments which keep them happy is their No 1 goal however that comes at a cost.

"The majority of Ngā Manu's operating costs come from areas that most people would not expect.

"Maintaining a sophisticated nocturnal house eco-system with climate control, blue lights, a flowing stream, pumps and freezers to store food had to continue during lockdown.

"The only additional costs we would have when fully operational are a couple of computers in our office and lights."

For the past 45 years Ngā Manu has been contributing to conservation outcomes throughout New Zealand through its breed for release programmes and species advocacy.

"Last year about 3000 of our visitors were education-related, from schools or adult learning and research institutes.

"That is very important for us, as it's revenue for us but we are also providing a valuable learning resource.

"Ngā Manu has always relied on our community support so we are hoping that will be back up and running soon."

In the meantime Ngā Manu has launched a Givealittle page to "help keep their wildlife fed and happy in their bubble".

Every dollar donated to Ngā Manu Nature Reserve goes directly to the conservation and welfare of the native birds and reptiles in their care.

"Please help us to continue to care for the species we all love."

To support Ngā Manu through this time visit their Givealittle page here.