Auckland Zoo director Jonathan Wilcken lives in Westmere, just a short walk to the ‘office’ that is Auckland Zoo. He loves the fact that the route from the letterbox to the zoo takes him right through this 17ha park each day; so he gets to see and hear the animals waking up and chat with keepers on the way to his desk.
Appointed director of Auckland Zoo in 2007, Jonathan moved here from Sydney where he was the executive director of the Australasian zoo organisation, ZAA (Zoo Aquarium Association), of which Auckland Zoo is a member.
Jonathan’s introduction to zoos was as a temporary zookeeper at London Zoo one summer, where he initially worked with hoofstock, and also milked cows! Following a placement at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, he studied ecology at London University and then took up a position as an educator at London’s Natural History Museum.
“One of the things I really love about zoos is their complexity. Zoos bring together people and animals, landscape design and life support systems, conservation and education, all in a great day out and all flavoured by the extraordinary passion of the people that work in them. I love passionate environments, and there's no place I know that is more driven by passion than Auckland Zoo. Our job is to build a future for wildlife, and everyone here is enormously committed to this mission."
Mamata Bakehouse, 401 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn
For their coffee and great pies [made with organic meat].
Francis Street Reserve
Our house backs onto this reserve [which is also dog-friendly], and our three kids live out there, along with all the other kids in the neighbourhood. They run in a pack, stopping off at different homes. It’s great.
Of course! And the family visit often. It’s recognised as one of the more progressive zoos, and our most recent project – the building of our New Zealand precinct, Te Wao Nui, has only served to enhance that. It really does offer a stunning experience of New Zealand’s unique native wildlife, and showcases what a modern zoo is all about.
Favourite zoo animal
They’re all favourites. But I think one of the coolest New Zealand animals is the tuatara. It was here before the dinosaurs. You can’t beat that!