Auckland Zoo Big Cat Encounter
Not even a 4am start could deter the participants of our day trip to Auckland Zoo.
The 6am flight from Christchurch and the pre-booked shuttle had them outside the Zoo gate at 8am, adrenaline pumping and rearing to go.
They were met at the gate by Zoo employee Renny, who was assigned to the group as guide and official photographer for the day. Once formalities were over and done with, it was time to get down to the nitty gritty. First up; off to the Cheetah enclosure in time to join the Cheetahs for their casual morning walk around the Zoo. Auckland Zoo has two Cheetahs in residence, Osiris and Anubis (named after Egyptian Gods). The Keepers gave a brief talk about the cats, focusing on conservation and why they are endangered.
This was followed by a 1 hour walk with plenty of photo opportunities and a chance to pat the Cheetahs. On return to their enclosure, the Cheetahs were given their breakfast and the Q & A session begins.
The Keepers are always happy to answer any questions you might have and you are encouraged to learn as much as possible about these, and in fact all the other majestic creatures at the Zoo. Remember, a portion of all monies paid for close up one on one encounters goes towards the protection and conservation of cats in the wild. So by participating, you are directly contributing to the conservation message.
Next it was off to the Lion’s den. There are four in total, one male and three females. The big cats are feed pet milk as a treat via a large syringe. This encourages the Lions to come closer for photo opportunities. And the group certainly got some fantastic photo shots. You can view a selection of these on our face book page Auckland Zoo album. While the Lions remained safely in their night dens, the group helped put out behavioural enrichment into the large enclosure. Enrichment plays a crucial part in providing quality care for captive wild animals. What a thrill for the group to be able to be involved in this.
During morning tea break, one of our group expressed an interest in meeting Burma the Elephant. This was not part of our itinerary, however Justine, (our cattery staff member who accompanied the group from Christchurch, and who also used to work at Auckland Zoo), thought she could pull some strings. What a bonus as all the group got to pat Burma and have their photos taken with her. Burma is a 31 year old Asian elephant and is currently the Zoo’s only elephant. Well it certainly helps to take along someone in the know! This day was just getting better and better.
Next on the agenda were the Tigers. The Zoo has three Sumatran tigers and the group got to interact with two of them, Molek and her son Berani. Obviously the talk here concentrated around conservation and how critically endangered this species is.
The excitement not yet over, Craig, one of the Senior Vets, tracked down the group and took them on a guided tour of the NZ Centre for Conservation Medicine, a state of the art facility which also operates as the Zoo’s Veterinary Clinic. In the autopsy room they were able to get a close up view of a whale’s eye.
Prior to the Shuttle pick up at 3pm there was some free time for a bite to eat or to view other parts of the Zoo. Arrival back in Christchurch was around 6:30pm. This was an absolutely fantastic day and the group was just buzzing with excitement. Each participant was also presented with a CD of all the photos taken on the day.
Provided there is enough interest, we will look at taking another group for a Big Cat close up encounter in a few months time. Please contact us if you would like to be involved in this unique once in a lifetime opportunity as spaces are limited.