Whio family fun weekend at Auckland Zoo – Whiotastic!

Department of Conservation —  27/03/2013

To celebrate Whio Awareness Month, Auckland Zoo held two Whio family fun days last weekend at the new whio enclosure. Communications & Engagement Advisor Robyn Orchard recounts the ‘whiotastic weekend’:

Raising awareness of whio and their importance to our environment was the objective of the whio family fun weekend at the Auckland Zoo at the weekend. And as Captain Whio, Andy Glaser, would say it was ‘whiotastic’!

Andy Glaser and his team before the zoo opened for the day.

Captain Whio (Andy Glaser) and his team before the zoo opened for the day

Over 7,000 people came through the Auckland Zoo gates over the weekend and my guess is that more than half of these came to see the new whio enclosure, take part in the Blue Duck Race, get their faces painted, talk to DOC and Genesis Energy staff, and get their photo taken in front of the giant $10 note whio billboard (check out the good looking DOC models above).

The weekend kicked off early Friday morning with the official unveiling of the new exhibit material in the enclosure. For me and my Genesis Energy colleague, Jenny Burke, it was an early start to get everything ready for the guests. At 6.30 am it’s still dark and a little spooky at the zoo; there are some weird noises with all those animals waking. I am sure I heard the lion or tiger roaring for breakfast – I was just praying that they were still well locked up.

Emily shows children how traps help to protect whio.

Emily showing some of the children how the DOC 200s work

Daylight was peeking through when the guests arrived at the new whio enclosure. The enclosure’s whio information was a collaboration between Auckland Zoo, Genesis Energy, and DOC. Jonathan Wilcken, Director at Auckland Zoo, welcomed more than 50 guests to the zoo for the breakfast launch. He thanked Genesis and DOC for working with the zoo staff in getting the whio information ready for opening.

Ali helps children colour in whio images at Auckland Zoo.

Ali explains the whio colours to some of the colouring kids

DOC Director General Al Morrison spoke about the importance of building on the partnerships DOC have with Genesis and extending the relationship DOC has with the zoo. He said that with Genesis Energy’s commitment, DOC’s expertise and Auckland Zoo’s engagement we would be able to spread the whio message far and wide.

High fives at the end of the rubber duck race.

High fives all round at the end of the whio race

The first 500 people visiting the zoo on both Saturday and Sunday received numbered blue duck ticket for the 11.30 am blue duck race. By 10 am, on both days, the blue duck tickets had been given out.

Captain Whio and his ranger team are used to getting wet when catching whio in the wild so they all donned gumboots and rubber gloves and took to the stream that ran through the zoo. Two of the rangers had the job of tipping the 500 rubber blue ducks off the bridge and into the stream when Captain Whio and the crowd completed the countdown.

The blue (rubber) ducks race at Auckland Zoo.

Racing the blue ducks are off and Mithuna is hurrying the stragglers along

The whio family fun weekend at Auckland Zoo was an awesome experience and an amazing opportunity to get the whio message out. One of the highlights for me had to be on Sunday morning when I went to get breakfast before the zoo opened, walking up to the café I was met by four zoo keepers taking the cheetahs out for their morning walk.

There are many New Zealanders who will most likely never get the chance to see a whio in the wild. But here in the new whio enclosure, the zoo has brought the High Country to Auckland, making it possible for thousands of people each week to learn about the whio and see them close-up.