Wellington – Zealandia

I didn’t realize Chinese New Year was Jan 23rd until a few days before so Michael and I didn’t have time to do anything, which is okay since we are not big on holidays anyway. Interestingly the celebration in Wellington was planned for on Feb 12th so we decided to spend the weekend there since I had never been. Our original plan was to visit the Wellington Zoo but after watching Earthlings, we felt that was the wrong thing to do, I looked around on the internet and found out about Zealandia, which is a sanctuary in the heart of Wellington, it’s interesting to see something so close to CBD and it will be ideal for us to visit with the boys. Our drive into the city was peaceful, boys napped for only about half an hour however they were very well entertained by Lazy Town and Lion King, thank goodness.

For most people I guess Zealandia might be a bit…boring. You definitely won’t see a lot of animals, as a matter of fact if you see any, you are lucky. Well, isn’t that the idea of a sanctuary? I particularly liked the exhibition and was amazed after learning how Zealandia came about, the fact that the city council made the idea a reality itself is, amazing. The goal is to turn the valley, located in the heart of city of Wellington, into a showcase of Zealandia, a place that nature intended to be, thousands of years ago IF there’s no human intervention (destruction or modernization, depending on how you look at it).   And the plan is a vision that will last 500 years, starting from the 1990, when the city and thousands of volunteers started to build upon the abandoned dam. 500 years from now, the natives plants will grow into their mature sizes, the canopy will cover the whole valley and it will be a very noisy place where the native birds and animals thrive, without having to worry about the introduced mammals such as possums, mice, stoats, etc. The Wellington community was able to achieve this, keeping the native birds’ predators out, by fencing the whole sanctuary! We walked the boys in the pram for about one hour and just covered a tiny little bit of the whole area, but we were lucky to see the tui, and a funny flightless bird and some other animals I don’t have a clue what they were. Boys loved it as well.


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The newly opened cafe Rata was really lovely, they use locally sourced produce and organic foods whenever possible, we were happy to be able to enjoy our lunch while the boys played in the large playpen, that was always a big problem! They are at the age they are not content with their food while sitting in the high chair any more, they all of a sudden turned into little monsters throwing utensils and plates around (starting this exact week), plus everything on it!

Our favorite was definitely the short film in the exhibition area, where we watched animated Moa being hunted by Maori as food to extinction, and their predator Haast’s Eagle who shared the same fate, as well as numerous native birds wiped out by introduced mammals brought in by the European settlers, or simply (and very stupidly) by human’s fascination of rare pretty feathers as decoration. Never had I thought of the degree of the destruction, the loss of plants and vegetations, due to construction of home and modern community. Sadly, even though New Zealand was the last land mass human set foot on, it has one of the worst records of loss of plant and animal species. Image Moa, being 3 meters tall, the tallest and would have been the most impressive birds, hunted as food, evolved through millions of years and disappeared within 100 years, completely gone by 1400AD. Then think of our fascination with meat, how could they survive being the only source of  large chucks of meat on the mammal-free Zealandia? Their fate was almost inevitable…

Zealandia is very unique for its location, we could walk from Lambton Quay or taking the cable car, it’s also special because we see now that the native birds and animals here are happy living in their natural surroundings, where they are supposed to be, instead of being in captivity, frustrated and stressed all day long, for the main purpose of entertainment for us. I hope the boys some day will realize how important that freedom really means to all of the life forms on earth and appreciate how special Zealandia is, for the birds, animals, and us humans. It is indeed exciting for them to see all sorts of animals or birds in the zoos, but will our boys appreciate and understand their responsibility to take care these animals, especially the rarities? Or they can do better to see them in the nature, or semi-natural environment to truly appreciate their existence or importance? I think we found the answer here right in Zealandia.


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