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!
- 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. Capuchins are considered the most intelligent of the monkey species.
- 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 Sam. 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 – Arapawa island goats were a feral goat in NZ but thought to have originated from the Old English breed which is now extinct.
- 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.
- Kaka – the South Island sub species is found mainly west of the Southern Alps, Fiordland, Southland and Stewart Island in the lowland forests.
- Takahe - Takahe are the largest species of rail in the world and are found only in New Zealand. They are one of the last remaining giant herbivorous birds that thrived in New Zealand before the arrival of people. 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.Conservation of takahe has led to pioneering techniques for saving other endangered species in New Zealand and around the world. Habitat manipulation, captive rearing, wild releases and island translocations have all helped to prevent the extinction of takahē. The last remaining 80 to 100 wild takahe live in the alpine tussock grasslands of the Murchison Mountains in Fiordland. Captive breeding at the Department of Conservation’s Burwood Takahe Centre and transfer to pest-free islands and mainland sanctuaries has helped saved the Takahe from extinction