There are approximately 50 different types of animals (up to 500 individual animals) at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. They can be found in individually designed enclosures and wandering free. The reserve is in three sections; “Wild New Zealand” with exotic wildlife, “Heritage New Zealand” with livestock and other introduced farmyard animals and birds, and “Natural New Zealand” with native species and some of their introduced predators. Below is just a small selection of the wildlife at Willowbank. Every animal has its own personal story. See map for full animal details.
Wild New Zealand
- Fallow Deer – these tame deer will eat right out of your hand. Be careful to hold onto the bag of food tightly as they like to take the whole thing!
- Ostrich – “Bubbles”. The largest living bird native to Africa.
- Wallabies – three orphaned wallabies; Lilly, Hope, and Kingsley, have been hand raised by our keepers. As babies they were carried around by the keepers in backpacks during the day, and taken home with them at night. All three enjoy being hand fed by our visitors and love a scratch behind the ears.
- Monkey Island – this is the home of our capuchins. Of particular interest is our resident escape artist Minty.
- Asian Small Clawed Otters – Our boys have a definite pecking order but love attention.
- Parrots – Sam is our Sulphur Crested Cockatoo. He is very friendly and loves to talk to the visitors.
- Macaws – These long living birds have come to Willowbank from Wellington and Timaru to form a pair, which will fingers crossed produce eggs.
- Siamang Gibbons – Mr. B, Sue and Intan are a family unit. Sue began her life at Auckland Zoo. Intan will move on to another zoo at approximately 5 years old to be part of a breeding program.
- Ring Tailed Lemurs – lemurs are fascinating primates well known for their cheeky characters in the movie “Madagascar”. Two years ago twin lemurs Kanuka and Kowhai were born at Willowbank. They are friendly and love to sit on peoples shoulders, which is very rare for ring tailed lemurs. Click here to see how you can get close to them with a lemur encounter.
- Black and White Ruffed Lemurs – a larger cousin to the ring tailed lemur and also indigenous to Madagascar.
Heritage New Zealand
- Peacock – many of our peacocks will be found in the picnic area at Willowbank. One, however, likes to stay close to the restaurant and wait for the chef to bring him grapes. His name is Nigel.
- Clydesdale – our Clydesdales name is Bess. She will ask you to feed her through her special feeder.
- Llama – Gandalf the llama comes out for a walk to meet the public during the school holidays.
- Goats – our goat, affectionately named Stinky, is always keen for some attention. Be warned however, his odor tends to linger!
- Chickens – our hens are all unusual varieties: Polish Bantams, Chinese Silkies, Silver Hamburgs, and Buff Orpingtons. They all produce eggs and chicks for us.
- Game Bantams – you may be “mugged” by our game bantam “Mafia” who free ranges in the farmyard.
- Miniature Horses – Giggles and Koha are very friendly miniature American horses. Koha was born at the park and has always been a favourite with the public.
Natural New Zealand
- Eels – our long finned eels live in fresh water but breed in saltwater. Adult eels can live for up to 80 years, and can reach 2 meters in length. The largest ever caught weighed 24 kilos! Their conservation status is similar to that of the Great Spotted Kiwi.
- Kea – the world’s only alpine parrot can be viewed in our alpine aviary. They are very intelligent, curious, and cheeky. A guided kiwi tour is the best way to get close to these parrots – your guide carries honey which attracts them, they may even sit on your shoulder!
- Kunekune Pigs – kune means ‘fat’, effectively making their name ‘fat fat pig’. Hercules is our large male. When he was a piglet he was so small he lived with the Guinea Pigs. Kunekune pigs can be toilet trained making them great pets.
- Tuatara – they are a living dinosaur and have not changed for 220 million years.
- Kiwi – At Willowbank we have North Island Brown, Great Spotted, Okarito Brown (Rowi), and Haast Tokoeka varieties. The North Island Brown variety is on display in our nocturnal house and in outside enclosures. Willowbank is part of the BNZ Operation Nest Egg program, which has successfully bred hatched and raised many kiwi birds. Their breeding season is usually from August to February and in the wild will lay 1 – 3 eggs per year. The main threats to survival are stoats and dogs, particularly in Northland where Kiwi areas border towns and cities. The Kiwi’s egg weighs 20% of the female’s body weight, the human equivalent of a giving birth to a five year old. Kiwi’s have a keep sense of smell, very poor sight, are territorial and mate for life.
- White Heron – White Herons were just visitors to New Zealand from Australia until the 1940s, when they were confirmed to be breeding in Otago. Our white heron, named Romeo, came to us after injuring his wing by flying into power lines. Being unable to fly he would not have survived in the wild, but lives happily here at Willowbank.
- Blue Duck – Its Maori name is “Whio” after the whistling call of the male. This bird is found on all New Zealand $10 notes.
- Takahe - Takahe are the largest species of rail in the world and found only in New Zealand. They weigh up to 3kg and can stand 63cm high at full stretch. They were believed to be extinct until their rediscovery in 1948 by Dr. Geoffrey Orbell. The last remaining 200-300 wild takahe live in tussock and beech valleys in Fiorland's Murchison mountains. Captive breeding at DoC breeding centres has saved the Takahe from extinction. Young takahe are fed with puppets so they do not become attached to humans.