Pre-opening of the Kamo Whangarei wildlife reserve. Video / Tania White
Bringing in more animals is part of Kamo Wildlife Sanctuary’s plans as New Zealand’s only big cat park prepares to open to the public.
A group of around 35 Northlanders who helped
the park with upgraded facilities, animal feed and other aids were invited for a tiki tour yesterday and similar groups will be welcomed over the weekend before the public starts roaring from Tuesday next week.
Since 2013, the park has not been able to open to the public as there was a need to modernize the facilities, build significant new containment facilities, provide everything necessary for animal welfare and maintain staff. at a level allowing public access.
The Ministry of Primary Industries last month granted the operators of the park all licenses to operate as a containment facility.
Big Cats Ltd operates the park and the money for operating expenses and investment in assets comes from Bolton Equities.
Director of operations Janette Vallance said introducing other animals and transforming an enclosure into a children’s playground are some of the exciting plans for the near future.
“There’s the possibility of another tiger but we’re looking at other things, whether it’s more cheetahs or jaguars. New Zealand has very narrow biodiversity. [rules] so it’s not going to be quick.
“We have a slight advantage with the tigers because we have the tigers so they seem to let the tigers in.”
Vallance said keepers pitched the idea of turning an enclosure into a children’s play area, which made sense.
“We’ll have to make sure it’s safe for kids, but keep the same theme that it’s an animal enclosure. Just something different.”
8 year old Violette Clare skipped school and came with Papa David especially to see cheetahs at the park “because they are fast”.
“She couldn’t contain her excitement when I told her about the visit the other day. Her school was very understanding because they know it’s very educational,” said David Clare.
He is the Firth site manager for Whangārei and Marsden regions and the company supplied concrete and donated labor during the upgrade of the park facilities.
Working with the city’s Hundertwasser Art Central, Clare said the park could be an absolute calling card for local and foreign tourists.
Sandeep Diwan took care of the printing and design of the park calendars, maps and similar materials and accompanied his son and daughter on the tour.
“The park will add value to Whangārei and Northland in general and complement other attractions around the district,” he said.
Five years from now, Vallance said she wants to see the park as a training and education center where people learn how to care for big cats.
“Our training program is quite good and it is growing. I want to give it to other people to learn how to do this. You can’t do it elsewhere. Learn to help those who live in nature.
“Ultimately, we will be able to contribute to conservation programs. Our focus right now, as I keep telling people, is these guys. We don’t have an income, we have to have an income that we will have next week, which is very exciting. Big cats are pretty special, not everyone can do them, ”Vallance said.
The number of visitors each day is capped at 100.
The sanctuary is home to nine African lions, six Barbary lions (extinct in the wild), three Bengal tigers, a cheetah (the oldest in the country) and New Zealand’s only leopard.
Bolton Equities has spent almost $ 10 million in the park over the past four years.
There are three ticket options. Bronze admission which includes all-day park access at $ 37 for adults and $ 21 for a child 14 and over, but does not include a guided tour of the park.
The Silver entry at $ 49 per adult and $ 32 for a child includes a guided tour of the park while the Gold pass also includes manual feeding of the big cats. Admission is $ 86 for an adult, $ 331 for a family pass, and $ 770 for a group pass covering 10 people.
Guided tours are at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Children cannot enter the park without a paying adult. Those who buy tickets and visit the park will need to be doubly vaccinated.