... a very well travelled - and utterly beautiful - cheetah who lives at Orana Wldlife Park with others of her kind - Orana participates in a worldwide captve breeding programme for these criticaly endangered animals. Kitoko was hand-reared at South Africa's world-famous de Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust. She first travelled to Perth Zoo ( where I met and fell in love with her when I was working there as a volunteer guide). When her carefully planned first pregnancy failed ( the baby died soon after birth) it was decided that Kitoko probably was not good mother-material and she would not be used to breed again. Perth only has room for one female cheetah so a home was found for her at Orana. This is normal practice for endangered animal breeding programmes - the animals actually don't "belong" to a zoo, but to the relevant breeding programme which dictates the movement of animals to ensure sound breeding and as diverse a gene pool as possible.
So - if animals are your thing and you have no objection to zoos and wildlife parks (and they do do a wonderful job), when you're in Christchurch, take yourself out to Orana. As well as Kitoko and the other cheetah, you'll find rare Rothschild giraffe and African Hunting Dogs - probably the most endangered of all Africa's animals -(and there's another Perth connection with both these groups), white rhino and magnificent scimitar-horned oryx - both animals that have literally been brought back from the brink of extinction by captive breeding programmes - along with several other African species.
There are small groups of animals from Australia and South America, and lots of New Zealand birds and reptiles (New Zealand has no native mammals) including the elusive kiwi.
The park covers quite a big area but there is a hop on-hop off shuttle you can take to get yourself around. Guided walking tours are offered at 10.40 and 2.30. You'll find feeding and keeper talk times posted in the information centre.
NZ's largest wildlife park!
was established in 1976 by small group of dedicated wildlife enthusiasts.
The Park is operated by the Orana Park Trust Board and is a registrered charitable trust. The Park has been developed as a sanctuary for endangered animals with a strong emphasis on conservation, education, and recreation.
It's nice place to visit with wonderful free animals...
Open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Orana Park gives more a zoo feeling than the cosy and more intimate wildlife park The Willowbank. This is not only due to the many exotic animals like lions, zebras, rhinos, giraffes, cheetahs and Sumatran tigers they have there in huge enclosures, and wide open spaces.
Although Orana Park is also renowned for its breeding programmes of rare New Zealand species, and also has a kiwi nocturnal house, keas, blue ducks and tuataras on display, it looks like a zoo that could be anywhere, whereas the flora of The Willowbank (which does not have most of the wild zoo animals) always gives you the feeling of being in New Zealand. That is why I prefer to go to The Willowbank which stresses its NZ heritage with the inclusion of KoTane, the Maori experience.
You can see some of the NZ animals you also find at the Willowbank (but by far not as many, and not as many species), and also a farmyard (less attractive), and additionally all those wild beasts. As it is a lot more touristy than the Willowbank (and therefore more crowded most times) it features guided tours on a Safari Shuttle, which are some carriers behind a tractor. But Orana Park is most famous for its tour through the lions enclosure. People who want to be that close are in a cage on a specially designed vehicle driving through the enclosure while the lions get fed, and the lions hang on to the cage or even jump on it. This comes at an extra cost of NZ$ 15, and only 20 tickets are available per day for the ride at 2.30pm. (Not for children under 1.40m!)
They advertise that some animal encounters like handfeeding the giraffes or meeting white rhinocerus face to face or patting a llama are not offered anywhere else in the world. I do not know if this is true but - anyway - it is nice.
What's really great is that the animals walk around in open range enclosures, with streams, moats and banks as natural barriers, so you do not have to hang around cages to spot them.
Open daily (except Christmas Day) 10am-5pm, last entry 4.30pm.
Admission NZ$ 25 (adults).
Update 26 November 2011
I have been back at Orana Park just yesterday. I think it is a very nice park to walk around. But for seeing and meeting NZ birds the Willowbank clearly is the better choice. Having said this, they do quite good stuff in this respect at Orana Park as well. In the walk-through aviary I chatted to a bellbird and a tui, and the kakariki were not shy at all. The new kea walk-through aviary is still in its early stages, with a beech forest needing to grow. One kea was hiding under a shrub, I did not spot any others who might be there.
The kiwi house (where you also find two moreporks) is quite good as well. There are feeding times when a ranger walks into the enclosure and puts out food (dead mice for the moreporks, a standard food mix for the two kiwi). Immediately the kiwi race to their food containers and you can watch them feeding. A nice chap in the visitor area on the other side of the glass mumbles interesting commentaries about the life of kiwi.
Problem is that all people walk in at the same time. This meant a lot of mums and couples with small children who made so much noise, screamed and cried that the kiwi on the other side of the glass pane only ate some bites and then made a runner - just like me. It is very unpleasant to pay the substantial admission to get this special occasion spoiled by people who bring in children who are too young to understand that they have to shut up in a kiwi house.
They run shuttles under certain conditions, so best you give them a call if you need transportation.
This park could take you a day or so too get around..
especially if you are a photo freak like me,
It's awesome if you just sit & wait.
Food, Animals, friends, gift shop..
You can even get a ride around the park
..or a horse ride for the kids?
what more could you want?
There are lots of animals to see here and it is nice that they all have more space if they were in other zoos. It is a good idea to turn up to the feeding/talk times early so you can get a good view of what's going on because if you turn up late and you're short like me you can't really enjoy it much. When I was there it didn't seem very busy because everyone was spread out over the large amount of land.
It also pays to visit on a nice sunny, but not too warm a day :)