Meet New Zealand’s only gorillas at Christchurch’s Orana Wildlife Park


Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch is the only place in New Zealand to see gorillas up close. Photo/Kim Libre

As head of marketing and visitor services at Orana Wildlife Park, Nathan Hawke spends every day with some of the coolest creatures in the country. Here, he talks about conservation programs, must-see exhibits, and future plans for the park.

Orana Wildlife Park is the South Island’s only major zoo and New Zealand’s only open-air wildlife park. We care for over 1000 animals representing 90 different species, many of which are critically endangered. Orana specializes in connecting people with wildlife and motivating visitors to care about the plight of endangered species here and around the world.

Our top three must-do activities should be meeting New Zealand’s only gorillas, hand-feeding the giraffes (and seeing Jasiri, the six-month-old calf), and meeting native birds and reptiles, including kiwis. , kea, tuatara and colorful geckos. .

Visitors can also spot the magnificent white rhino and enjoy the antics of lions, tigers, cheetahs, Tasmanian devils, friendly barnyard creatures, meerkats and more.

The tiger enclosure is one of the highlights for visitors to Orana <a class=Animal Park. Photo/Kim Libre ” class=”article-media__image responsively-lazy” data-test-ui=”article-media__image”/>
The tiger enclosure is one of the highlights for visitors to Orana Animal Park. Photo/Kim Libre

Orana operates as a charitable trust, generating over 80% of its revenue from visits. We are also passionate about involving visitors in conservation efforts, such as keeping a dog on a leash to protect adult kiwis and recycling cell phones to help with gorilla conservation.

We feel absolutely privileged to have some of NZ’s most valuable and unique species in our care, and to be able to contribute to the Department of Conservation’s recovery programs for some of NZ’s most endangered wildlife. This includes breeding whio/blue ducks and kākāriki karaka, New Zealand’s rarest parakeet, for release into the wild.

We also play an important role in contributing to international breeding programs for endangered exotic species, such as New Zealand’s only addax, a species of antelope on the brink of extinction.

Orana's conservation program includes the breeding of kākāriki karaka, New Zealand's rarest parakeet.  Photo/Kim Libre
Orana’s conservation program includes the breeding of kākāriki karaka, New Zealand’s rarest parakeet. Photo/Kim Libre

My best tip for visitors would be to check out the park’s feed presentations, which air from 10:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. daily. We also have an annual pass, which means people can visit the zoo every day for an entire year.

As a registered charity, Orana raises 100% of funds for capital projects to improve the zoo. In terms of future plans, our team is really excited to build a $1.6 million Southern White Rhino Conservation Center, as part of a global effort to help prevent the extinction of the species.

For more information and to schedule a visit, visit or follow Orana Wildlife Park on Facebook.

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