Orana Wildlife ParkWebsite



McLeans Island Road

Size of zoo

Orana wildife park is located on 80ha (198 acre) of land.


Orana Wildlife Park was first suggested by a New Brighton resident called Neville Jemmet. He believed the wildlife park could be constructed on a recently completed land fill dump at Bexley. This idea was soon spread to the community and excitement built. In July 1970 the South Island Zoological Society formed with eight members. This soon grew to 100 people. Public meetings took place to discuss the concept for the wildlife park and it was decided an open range zoo would be built.

While the Bexley site was unsuitable for the zoo a new site on Mcleans Island with land to be leased from the North Canterbury Catchment Board was suggested.

80 hectares were leased and planning for the zoo began. Only 16 hectares of the land would be part of the initial park. This area had been a pine forest so working bees commenced to remove the pines which had been cut down. Initially this was done with picks and shovels but as fundraising commenced a tractor and trailer along with a bulldozer were purchased. Trees and shrubs were planted and by 1974 a boundary fence had been constructed. In 1975 work began on toilets and a service workshop.

In 1976 the first animals were purchased giving a sense of urgency to finish the park. By mid August the animal enclosures were complete and on September 10 the animals arrived from Australia.

Gates opened to the public on September 25th 1976. 12 adult lions 6 lion cubs, 2 Shetland ponies, 2 water buffalo, 2 camels, 2 donkeys and 2 tiger cubs called the park home. The zoo’s unique feature was New Zealand’s first drive through lion reserve to which thousands of people flocked. The last of them journeyed through the park in the dark with their headlights on.

In 1977 the park grew to include a farm yard, kiosk and timber wolf habitat. These improvements were followed the next year by a walkthrough wallaby yard and a display of Australian parakeets. Also arriving at the zoo that year was a group of spider monkeys who lived in the middle of the zoo’s lake.

Orana Wildlife Park began building up its collection of rare and endangered species the next year with 2 scimitar horned oryx moving to the zoo from England. A new antelope house and a souvenir shop were also added. The following year a large consignment of Australian animals including red and grey kangaroos could arrive due to the entrance moving. A kiwi rehabilitation centre was also established which was the first on the South Island. It’s first patient was a Stewart Island Brown kiwi. Another highlight that year was the arrival of two zebra from England and one from Wellington Zoo.

In 1981 the African plains opened displaying animals in a naturalistic manner due to careful landscaping and moat building. Giraffes joined the park in 1982 with two 18 month olds flying on a jumbo jet from Canada.

In 1983 a major achievement for the wildlife park was that 80% of the animals bred. The first two zebra were born and the 10th scimitar horned oryx calf was born. A pair of llamas from Auckland Zoo went on exhibit and 2 female nilgali joined the lone male.

1984s main focus was the building of a kiwi house. As the first kiwi house on the South Island it was very popular. 1985 saw the New Zealand collection expand further with a New Zealand native flora and fauna display developed at the centre of the park. A number species had also prospered so well that some were sent to overseas zoos.

Rhino arrived in 1986 adding to the zoos conservation work.

In 2013 the zoo closed for 10 days following severe storms which damaged fences and cut power to the park.

In July 2014 Orana Wildlife Park begun construction on the great ape centre to house New Zealand’s only gorillas. This centre officially opened during July 2015.

Number of animals

Orana Wildlife Park is home to 400 animals from 70 species



Orana Wildlife Park has a playground which features a trampoline alongside other play equipment for kids.

Lion Encounter

This experience is a new method of the traditional lion encounter where people drove their own car in to the lion enclosure. Now a specially modified truck takes them in with a keeper who feeds the lions while they are in there.

*Remember to check the zoo’s website for operating times, conditions and costs.*

Main Exhibits


This area allows visitors to interact with domestic animals in an up close manner.

Tasmanian Devil habitat

Orana Wildlife Park is one of very few outside of Australia housing the rare Tasmanian Devil. Here they roam through the largest Tasmanian Devil exhibit in New Zealand.

Great Ape Centre

Orana’s $6 million great ape centre is the home of New Zealand’s only gorilla’s. Here they house a bachelor group.