A year of conservation, rescue, rehab and research


ZAA-accredited zoos and aquariums are made up of passionate conservationists who contribute to conservation and environmental sustainability efforts through many and varied approaches.

They put their hearts into conservation, striving to make a meaningful difference through our wildlife hospitals, breeding programs, partnerships, conservation research, education initiatives, visitor engagement, environmental sustainability work, behaviour-change campaigns and fieldwork in the wild.

Throughout 2019 ZAA-accredited zoos and aquariums have had some big wins in many areas of conservation, rescue, rehabilitation and wildlife research.


Auckland Zoo Vet Manager Dr James Chatterton treating kākāpō

Funnel-web spider venom milking at the Australian Reptile Park

Rescued greater glider at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Critically endangered orange-bellied parrot chicks bred at Moonlit Sanctuary

Auckland Zoo staff and vets contributed almost 5,000 hours to assist the Department of Conservation Kākāpō Recovery Team with the largest and longest breeding season (86 chicks with an adult population numbering only 142) ever for the critically endangered kākāpō.

Following that an aspergillosis crisis “came like a sucker punch” according to Vet Manager Dr James Chatterton. To date, Auckland Zoo vets, staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to treat 28 birds at its vet hospital. All but a few birds have been successfully treated and returned to their homes in the wild. Just three birds remain at Auckland Zoo.

The Australian Reptile Park’s dedicated funnel-web spider breeding facility commenced operations at the start of the year. This program sees the Park working with Seqirus (formerly BioCSL) to produce lifesaving funnel-web spider antivenom. Since development of the antivenom in 1981, there have been zero fatalities from funnel-web spider bites.

Their terrestrial snake venom milking program, which helps to produce lifesaving snake antivenom, is estimated to save around 300 lives per year. In 2019, they announced that 20,000 lives have been saved since the program began in 1951!

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary received two non-releasable greater gliders last year; one male and one female. They were put together this year and have bred successfully with the birth of female ‘Malani’, the Sanctuary’s first zoo-bred greater glider joey. With a total of only five in human care and their native forest being threatened and destroyed, it is imperative that these captive gliders are the ambassadors for their wild counterparts, who are listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ nationally. The Sanctuary also had their biggest visitation on record, engaging more people than ever with their conservation message.

Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park had a bumper season for breeding the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot. 65 young birds left the nest this year which is a record for the Sanctuary. They also had one of the highest fertility and hatching rates yet achieved from captive birds. 

Moonlit Sanctuary also opened a new exhibit with two breeding pairs of swift parrots. With the decline of the population of swift parrots leading experts to predict their extinction in less than a decade, Moonlit Sanctuary’s avian experts will lead the march to raise their profile and increase their numbers.

The Sanctuary was also thrilled to be announced as gold winner of the RACV Victorian Tourism Awards Ecotourism category for the second consecutive year.


Moonlit Sanctuary keeper, Ash, with orange-bellied parrot

Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation disentangle whales during migration

Taronga Conservation Society vet team check endangered birds before protection from baiting project

A little blue pengion patient at Wellington Zoo's The Nest Te Kōhanga wildlife hospital

In 2019, Sea World continued to be a leader in marine research, rescue and conservation. The team who are on call 24 hours every day, 365 days per year to rescue marine animals, assisted the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol in the disentanglement of three humpback whales throughout the 2019 migration season.

In addition to this the team rescued, rehabilitated and released a number of sea snakes, sea birds and turtles, including a double release of two green turtles at Fingal Beach. The Sea World Research & Rescue Foundation funded 21 scientific research projects relating to the aspects of the biology of marine vertebrates.

Taronga Conservation Society is a proud partner in the Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication program and in 2019 their team built a specially designed rodent-proof facility onsite at Lord Howe Island to house and protect 350 endangered birds – 120 Currawong and 230 Woodhen – while baiting took place on the island.

The birds were caught in April, with every bird undergoing health checks by Taronga’s veterinarian, before they settled in well to their temporary homes, adapted to captive diets quickly and were under the care by a team of experienced Taronga keeping staff for the duration of the baiting period and for approximately 100 days post baiting. The currawongs have now been released back to their wild site of capture and are settling in well, while the woodhens were returned to the mountains of Lord Howe in early December.

The Nest Te Kōhanga is Wellington Zoo's native wildlife and animal hospital and this year they celebrated 10 years since this award-winning facility opened. Each year their skilled Veterinary team treat and rehabilitate hundreds of sick and injured native wildlife patients.

The work they do at The Nest Te Kōhanga is Wellington Zoo’s biggest contribution to saving animals in the wild. Since its opening, the hospital has treated over 3,400 sick and injured native wildlife patients.