2020: a year of wildlife rescues and research


Whilst our ZAA-accredited zoos and aquariums couldn’t have visitors during periods of COVID-19 lockdowns this year, their important wildlife rescue and research work has continued behind the scenes.

Maru Koala & Animal Park in Victoria conducted research sponsored by the Australasian Society of Zoo Keepers (ASZK) observing koalas. Park staff observed koalas in the wild, captive in a large free ranging reserve and captive in the wildlife park to study behaviours. Report will be shared in Thylacinus in the future.

SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium in Auckland had several turtles come through for rehabilitation after being rescued. In March, Calvin the Green Sea Turtle was successfully released into the ocean at Rangiputa by the affectionately named ‘Team Turtle’, a collaborative effort from Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s, the NZ Department of Conservation, Auckland Zoo, and iwi, with generous support from Countdown.

Another turtle, called Taka was found stranded on Takapuna Beach in May and moved to SEA LIFE for treatment for exhaustion, dehydration and low body temperature in the aquarium’s Turtle Rehabilitation Centre after it was initially rescued by the Department of Conservation and checked over by Auckland Zoo’s specialist vet team.


Maru Koala & Animal Park team doing koala observations

Koala observed during Maru Koala & Animal Park observations

The Auckland Zoo & SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's team treat Calvin the turtle after rescue. Photo credit: Auckland Zoo

The SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium team release Calvin the turtle after rehabilitation

Wellington Zoo in New Zealand were beyond excited this year to have successfully hatched 13 Goliath Bird Eating Tarantulas. This is the first time in Australasia where this understudied species has bred in human care. It marks an exciting opportunity to learn more about this fascinating species.             

Territory Wildlife Park also had success with a breeding first after the successful births of black-footed tree-rat offspring from two mothers. They started the new breeding program with 12 founder animals that all came in as recues to the Territory Wildlife Park Vet Hospital. The breeding season has only just begun so they are hoping to have further births before the year is out.


Orange-fronted kākāriki in the breed-for-release programme at Orana Wildlife Park

Whio in the breed-for-release programme at Orana Wildlife Park

Zoos Victoria releasing eastern-barred bandicoots to the wild

Release eastern-barred bandicoot

Orana Wildlife Park continued to contribute to breed for release programmes for whio, pateke, kiwi and, for the first time, orange-fronted kakariki.

Significantly, in partnership with the Department of Conservation, 100 endangered kōwaro/Canterbury mudfish were transferred into their waterways as a backup population for these threatened native fish – the rarest mudfish in New Zealand – further transfers will occur next year with the aim of establishing a population of 300 kōwaro at Orana.

After decades of work, Zoos Victoria and Phillip Island Nature Parks released 74 Eastern Barred Bandicoots onto fox-free French Island.

The bandicoots were mainly bred at Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo and a few came from an earlier release at nearby Churchill Island. They are the beginning of a brand-new wild population that will hopefully flourish and help bring this species back from the brink of extinction.