In Wildness is the preservation of the World

The days around Christmas and New Year are, if you are on holiday like we are, a chance to go those places that at weekends get forgotten in the piles of ironing, grocery shopping and laundry. Back to the last Sunday in 2018, when we decided to go to the zoo. We have actually only been there once (you can tell there are no small children in this household…), and have been meaning to go back ever since. Sticking with the wildlife theme, we also headed to Zealandia on New Year’s Day. Zealandia is the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, designed to restore this part of Wellington to, as closely as possible, its pre-human state.

Sunday was a bit overcast, but warm and humid, and the animals were all rather lethargic as a result. All that is except one young chimpanzee, who found two empty sacks, and carried them up to one of the platforms in the play area, and proceeded to shake them out, and try to make…well a sort of nest or cosy place to be along with one of the ropes that he seemed to be using to lie on. It was such fun to watch. The meerkats were also out and entertaining us, but the penguins were hiding and many of the other animals preferred just to doze.

Wallaby, resting
Giraffes – apparently they only sleep a couple of hours a day
Lions, resting

We also got to get up quite close to a native New Zealand bird, the kea, a highly intelligent mountain parrot, always entertaining (they are known to rip off windscreen wipers off cars. I was never fond of zoos as a child, but now really enjoy going, and seeing what is being done in terms of conservation and how zoos cooperate in different projects.


To shake off the excesses of Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve), we headed up to Zealandia. Should you ever be in Wellington, it is really worth visiting this 225 hectare ecosanctuary. It is also a lovely walk, with various pathways and the chance to spot some wildlife.

One of the paths passes by an area favoured by tuatara, a ‘living dinosaur’ (the only surviving members of a species of reptile that became extinct). They have three eyes, though the third eye doesn’t actually see. It is usually possible to spot a couple, and we were not disappointed this time. You can read a bit more about them here.

A tuatara
Another tuatara digging a wee hole to hide in

It is usually also possible to see the kākā (the brown parrot we hear all the time) feeding, and as one of the guides had just been restocking their feeding boxes, we were able to see them open the lids, take their food, and fly off with it. We also spotted one drinking from the special bottles provided. There are always ducks hovering around under the feeders, hoping to grab the fall-out, and we also spotted a couple of quail.

Kākā drinking

On our walk around, we were very fortunate to spot three saddlebacks, pecking away at the ground. These distinctive birds with their chestnut saddle across a black back, are apparently slowly making a comeback in predator free areas. You can read more about these birds here. One of the guides also pointed out to us a kererū nest, hidden in the trees. See more pictures of this large pigeon in our garden here.

Rear view of a kererū – not the one with the nest
View down to the upper dam

I feel so privileged to live so near to such a place, and have the opportunity to see wildlife up close. It was a great start to the year.

Notes: the picture at the top of the post is a sign warning drivers of low flying kererū.

The last picture was taken by my husband, who climbed up the observation tower.

I was looking around for inspiration for a title for this blog post, and thought this one fitted the bill from Henry David Thoreau, Walking .

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram @thistleandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on

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