It will be a summer of babies at Auckland Zoo, with giraffe Kiraka and tiger Zayana expected to give birth.

Head of animal care and conservation Richard Gibson said Kiraka might be off-show while she gives birth and for the first few days with her calf.

“But we anticipate that she’s a good mum and she’ll be back on-show pretty quickly… we hope with her calf, and integrating that calf into the herd.”

He said Zayana is also expected to do better this time, after giving birth to two cubs in September – but when one was stillborn, she chose to kill the other one.

“This birth might go really well, but what we do know with tigers is the normal behaviour is they keep their cubs tucked away in a quiet place in a den. Or it might be under a dense tree or wherever they choose to give birth, and they’ll have two or three places where they hide their cubs.”

Showing off the cubs will be up to Zayana, he said, which could take two to three weeks.

Gibson said they were also excited to have some fairy terns/tara iti hatch – New Zealand’s rarest breeding bird. There were only around 40 individual birds left and a handful of breeding pairs.

“For the last few years we’ve been working with [the Department of Conservation] to provide an intensive management component to the recovery programme, whereby eggs from the wild come into the zoo and we incubate them and hand rear them.

“That part of the project is just kicking off now. We have eggs incubating right now, and so we’d anticipate eggs hatching.”

The zoo was working with the Department of Conservation on a release strategy to get the fledglings back into the wild and integrated with the flock.

The last financial year, April 2022 to March 2023, was the zoo’s busiest yet with 816,000 visitors through its gates.

The zoo was run by the council agency Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, which had its funding cut in 2023.

Head of brand experience and development Jooles Clements said operationally it costs about $19 million a year to run the zoo.

“And that’s running it pretty lean. We make savings everywhere we possibly can and with the well-publicised circumstances that Auckland Council finds itself in, our funding envelope is about 5.7 million, less than a third of our operational costs.

“The rest we generate through people’s support – whether that is a visit to the zoo or buying something in our cafe or retail shop or contributing to our conservation work through donation.

“All of those things and the money that we receive from our partners and things like that help us reach our targets.”

Clements said visitors were encouraged to take their time through the zoo, as there was always something new to look at, whatever the weather.

“If we happen to have a new giraffe baby and perhaps some tiger cubs that people can get a glimpse of, then all the more reason to come.”

By Emma Stanford of rnz.co.nz

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