Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA)

New Zoo development heroes Australia’s ‘Strangely Beautiful’

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Published Friday 16 December 2016

Visitors to Auckland Zoo this weekend can look forward to saying gidday to some stunning Aussie newcomers with the opening of its new $3.2million highly immersive ‘Strangely Beautiful Australia’ development.

Residents include giant forked-tongued lace monitors (Bruce, Alf and Ned), Australia’s heaviest stick insect, red-back and social huntsman spiders, eastern water dragons and snake-neck turtles, frogs, fish, and a diversity of vibrant, and very noisy, Australian birds.

The new exhibit, to be home to 18 different species alone, now connects up the Zoo’s Aussie Walkabout (home to wallabies, emu and a walkthrough aviary), a Tasmanian devil exhibit, and soon-to-be-completed brolga enclosure, to complete its Australia precinct. It will feature more than 23 different species to become the Zoo’s most species-rich area to date.

“I love our ‘Strangely Beautiful Australia’ exhibit on many levels,” says Auckland Zoo’s Australian-born and bred director, Jonathan Wilcken.

“It’s based on habitats in the southeast of Australia, which is where I come from, and is a real celebration of the eclectic, gorgeous, brash and gaudy wildlife of the area, of the sort that you come across in all sorts of unexpected ways in back gardens, outhouses, and homes. If you look carefully, you’ll be able to find deadly red-back spiders, giant stick insects, green and golden bell frogs and others. You won’t be able to miss giant roaming lizards and the snake-necked turtles that swim Australia’s inland rivers. And we invite you to join an incredible variety of raucous colourful birds in walkthrough aviaries.

“Growing up, I vividly remember leaning on a bush verandah watching a giant 2m lace monitor lizard patrol our garden. This exhibit is dedicated to those sorts of odd and casual wildlife encounters that help make Australia’s natural environment, the strange and beautiful place it is,” says Wilcken. 

‘Strangely Beautiful Australia’ is the second project to be completed this year (following the opening of its African savannah in March) as part of Auckland Zoo’s $120m 10-year redevelopment programme being funded through Auckland Council’s long-term plan.

An overview of the Zoo’s 10-year redevelopment plan can be found here.

‘Strangely Beautiful Australia’ Fast Facts
•A $3.2million development, and the 2nd project (following its African Savannah opening in March) to be completed this year as part of Auckland Zoo’s 10-year redevelopment programme being funded through Auckland Council’s long-term plan •A 9-month build (March - December 2016) involving 27 companies and more than 23,400 person hours! •Designed by the late Logan Brewer and built by Hawkins Construction •Bio-diversity: Based loosely on Australia’s Murray-Darling region, ‘Strangely Beautiful Australia’ makes Auckland Zoo’s Australia precinct its most species-rich area. Incorporating mammals, reptiles, birds, invertebrates, amphibians and fish, the Australia precinct will eventually be home to more than 23 species and approximately 1200 animals. 18 of these species will live in ‘Strangely beautiful Australia’ •A fair dinkum Aussie experience: Visitors are offered a highly immersive experience to discover how and where Aussies themselves come across some of these strangely beautiful creatures, including their own backyards and homes! A bookshelf within an indoor gallery space houses intriguing invertebrates; a verandah space looks out onto an open woodland where giant lizards lurk, and a species-rich walk-in riverside aviary offers a sensory overload of sights, sounds, smells and underwater viewing •Technology: A world-class lace monitor exhibit in a perfect sun-trap location features an EFTE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) retractable roof to allow UV light to penetrate even when the roof is closed – vital for reptile bone development. A sprinkler system provides a mimic of the rain (down to the droplet size!) these large lizards would experience in the wild on Australia’s southeast coast. In the multi-species walkthrough aviary, a bio-filtration system creates the required aquarium environment for fish and snake-neck turtles •Plants: The greater Australia precinct features over 30 different Australian native plants. These reflect the open woodland and scrubland environments of Australia’s vast semi-arid areas along with a number of sub-tropical flora from Australia’s rainforest habitats  – where some of the precinct’s birds are from •Art and Architecture: ‘Strangely Beautiful Australia’ features an eclectic mix of natural and modern architecture, with elements of sculpture and art, including iconic Australian animal prints by renowned 19th century artist John Gould  

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