$3.2m on ele­phants, $120k on we­tas


From enor­mous ele­phants to giant we­tas, run­ning one of New Zealand’s top zoos re­quires an equally hefty bud­get.

Not in­clud­ing a multi-mil­lion dol­lar ele­phant deal, the Auck­land Zoo has an an­nual al­lowance of $125,000 to spend on all an­i­mal move­ments.

And with a fo­cus on ed­u­ca­tion and con­ser­va­tion, rather than en­ter­tain­ment, the zoo racks up even higher fig­ures on be­ing eco­log­i­cally re­spon­si­ble.

The 95-year-old zoo forked out $120,000 over re­cent years for its giant weta pro­gramme, but it’s most costly translo­ca­tion in the past year has been an aquar­ium full of ex­otic fish.

More than $20,000 ($19,200 ex­clud­ing GST) was spent ac­quir­ing 1000 Aus­tralian rain­bow fish for the new Strangely Beau­ti­ful Aus­tralia ex­hi­bi­tion.

Kevin Buley, head of life sciences at Auck­land Zoo, said the brightly coloured trop­i­cal fish proved to be the one of the most ex­pen­sive translo­ca­tions in re­cent times, but the least ex­pen­sive on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis, with the fish cost­ing just $20 each.

The most ex­pen­sive in­di­vid­ual award goes to An­jalee the 1.7-tonne Asian ele­phant. The eight-year-old pachy­derm from Sri Lanka moved in with house­mate Burma in July 2015, as part of a $3.2 mil­lion ele­phant ac­qui­si­tion project.

And from the very big to the ridicu­lously cute, Buley said a male golden lion ta­marin, Alonzo, was one of the most ex­pen­sive in­di­vid­ual mam­mal im­ports in the year to date.

An es­ti­mated $5000 was spent on his tran­si­tion from Mogo Zoo in New South Wales to Auck­land - which in­cluded his food, crate, per­mits, quar­an­tines and checkup costs.

A pri­mate keeper just flew to Toronto Zoo to meet a po­ten­tial new male breed­ing spi­der mon­key - the trip cost $3000.

Ad­di­tional projects in­clude re­leas­ing na­tive species back into the wild, with a to­tal cost of $1.5m which comes in the form of staff hours and re­sources the Auck­land Zoo con­trib­utes an­nu­ally to na­tional and in­ter­na­tional wildlife con­ser­va­tion. Such projects in­clude re-es­tab­lish­ing giant weta on Hau­raki Gulf is­lands.

Due to the large-scale breed­ing pro­gramme, more than 2000 giant weta have been re­leased into the wild at a cost of about $120,000, or $40 to $80 each, de­pend­ing on size.


An­jalee, an Asian ele­phant, was part of a $3.2 mil­lion ele­phant ac­qui­si­tion project.

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