The Wellington Zoo was opened in 1906 on thirteen hectares of land along Daniell Street, Newtown in Wellington. It is the only zoological garden in Wellington and it is also the oldest zoo. It is a member of the esteemed Australasian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria. The Wellington Zoo began from a young lion that was given to Richard Seddon, then Prime Minister, by the Bostock and Wombwell Circus. The lion was named King Dick and he was the first specimen of the zoo. As the years passed, the zoo continued to expand and develop, and it committed itself to conservational education through bringing people and animals closer.
The Wellington City Council originally managed the zoo, but in June 2003, the zoo was converted into a charitable trust. It is currently operated by a board composed of six trustees while the Wellington City Council provides funding for maintenance and other projects. The keepers of the Wellington Zoo are heavily involved with managed breeding programs. They have, so far, been highly successful, and many of the animals in the zoo are products of these breeding programs. The Wellington Zoo works with zoos in other parts of the world through a group of zoologists responsible for tracking particular species to ensure the genetic diversity of species. Aside from breeding programs, the Wellington Zoo is into several conservation projects. These include the Kereru Discovery Project, Te Papa, Pukuha and the Wildlife Sanctuary. The people behind the Kereru Discovery Project work to make Wellington a safer place for the Keruru which are native wood pigeons.
The Wellington Zoo contains several exhibits. They include the African Savannah, the Monkey Islands, the Twilight, the Reptile Houses, the Lion Exhibits, the Sumtran Tiger Exhibit, and the Malayan Sun Bear. The African Savannah features a giraffe house, and it also contains zebra, ostrich and antelopes. Near the African Savannah exhibit are the areas for the hamadryas baboons and cape hunting dogs. The Monkey Islands are located near the zoo entrance. The two islands hold the capuchin monkeys and gibbons. The Twilight is home to the zoo’s nocturnal species, which are, mainly, the kiwi and tuatara. There are two Reptile Houses in the zoo. One contains reptiles, while the other has been converted to become the Historic Elephant House. The Lion Exhibits hold two prides of lions. The rare tigers for the Sumatran Tiger Exhibit have all been bred and born in the zoo. There is also a Malayan Sun Bear Exhibit, and other animals such as bats, red pandas, cheetahs and Asian otters may be seen in the Wellington Zoo. The zoo offers the “Close Encounter” program to visitors. The animals involved in this exciting program include the red pandas, cheetahs, lions, tigers and giraffes. Some people may opt to spend their day visiting the animals under the zoo’s conditioning program with a member of the training team.