The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary is a very special conservation effort devoted to fostering the natural heritage of New Zealand. It is part of a 500 year project to restore ‘a corner of mainland New Zealand as closely as possible to the way it was the day before humans arrived’. Although this seems like a very ambitious undertaking, the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary has already made terrific strides in bringing back and conserving traditional New Zealand flora and fauna, starting to reverse a decline that has been going on for the past 700 years.

At the eco sanctuary close to downtown Wellington, one square mile of forest around a reservoir is being restored to serve as a habitat for native flora and fauna that were almost wiped out when alien species not part of the country’s evolutionary eco system, took root. Pest proof fencing, a world first, specially designed for the purpose after trial and error, protects the now regenerating flora and fauna.

Public awareness is very much a part of the project and for this purpose 32 km of tracks have been created to take visitors around the sanctuary to introduce them to 40 species of birds made up of those released in the sanctuary since 2000 and those that are naturalised, geckos, frogs, skinks, a reptilian living fossil the tuatara and wetas including the giant weta, a large heavy insect found only in New Zealand. The sanctuary’s programme extends to freshwater fish and the lake is stocked with the banded koko pu, the koura and the lonfin eel that are native fish species. Tree species like the silver and black tree ferns, pepper trees, the world’s most southern palm trees, the biggest fuchsias, ever greens, flowering shrubs, broad leafed forest species and wetland species are all regenerating here, albeit slowly.

Walking tours, talks and boat rides enable visitors to gain awareness of the fauna and flora of the sanctuary. Guided torchlight walks highlight the tiny spotted kiwi and other nocturnal creatures. Evening bird calls absent on the mainland are once again being heard.

A visit to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary also creates awareness of the country’s environment millennia ago, the changes that took place and the conservation measures being implemented to arrest further environmental decline.

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Pushpitha Wijesinghe is an experienced independent freelance writer. He specializes in providing a wide variety of content and articles related to the travel hospitality industry.