Exploring the Wildlife in New Zealand. Are they really wild?

As you may have seen in my previous posts, many of the stops we made in New Zealand were agriculturally based. I certainly did mind this, having a livestock interest. But those were not the only kinds of places we went to study human and animal interactions.

In the states, I know I love to visit the zoo. I grew up with the Toledo Zoo only 25 minutes away and have visited the Columbus Zoo while living in Columbus and attending Ohio State. I have always been interested in exotic animals and for quite some time, wanted to pursue a zoology degree. So, it is always a pleasure to see these wild animals when I can.

My group visited the Orana Wildlife Park in New Zealand. We learned about some of their native species like the Kiwi and Tuatara. We also saw some of the animals they have from around the globe.


This was an interesting visit to see native creatures to New Zealand, but also the environments and exhibits for other exotic animals commonly found in zoos around the globe. Some of the animals I would not use the word “wild” to describe their behavior.

Giraffes

The Rothchild Giraffes were trained to come up to a fenced platform where guests of Orana can feed the giraffes browse. This enriched the giraffe because they used their tongue to strip the leaves off branches. This intimate interaction visitors could have was exciting for many… but what does that prove about the use of these animals?

Cheetahs

One animal I was especially surprised by at Orana was the cheetah. These animals are typically solitary cats. Not here. Since being raised as cubs, the cheetahs were trained and tamed so that they like affection from trainers and people. Visitors could pay to go into the pen with the cheetahs and they may or may not interact with them like pictured with the keeper lying on the ground.

Cheetahs at Orana

Cheetah and Keeper at Orana
Cheetah and Keeper at Orana

What does this environment say about the way zoo animals are being raised in captivity? Is it healthy for the public to have this experience with the animals and possibly have the perception that wild animals can be “tamed”?

Lions

One animal that we saw that I would still classify as wild was the African lion. Take a look at these pictures.

Lion Feeding

Lion Feeding

The lion feedings at Orana were something I wouldn’t imagine doing. This caged vehicle transports a keeper and park guests through the lion exhibit to feed the animals meat. This interaction is a bit too close for comfort in my opinion! I also found it interesting that these lions are male. Why don’t they have manes, you may be wondering? Because they have been castrated. This reduces their aggressive behavior and also makes them grow larger and lose their manes because of decreased testosterone levels.

Positive Publicity

These close encounters are unique to Orana and it was fun to experience them. However, I have some puzzling thoughts. I think the encounters bring positive publicity to the park. However, is this a positive first-time experience with these wild creatures? Could these bring negative effects to the conservation and wild species protection from humans?

I think this visit was very informative that marketing to a consumer audience plays a role in a business and increases profitability. But, should that be what zoos and wildlife parks are about?