Capital cities pioneering wildlife conservation together

Alison Russell-French

ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary and the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust join forces.

There are two sanctuaries that lie across the Tasman, nestled in the capital of Australia. In one, birds dive, swoop and flutter in water against the backdrop of the city; in the other miniature kangaroos and spotted carnivorous marsupials rummage through tufts of grass and gumtrees inside the protective guard of a predator-proof fence. Jerrabomberra Wetlands and Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary.


‘ZEALANDIA by Night’ inspired the formation of Twilight Tours at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary. Here a group meet before embarking through the sanctuary at night in search of unique native wildlife. Photograph by Stephen Corey

In the colourful capital of New Zealand, Wellington, where weatherboard houses encrust a protected body of sea, you will hear the cacophony of birdsong that resonates throughout the city. Twenty years ago, this song was nowhere near as strong. In fact, some of these songs had disappeared entirely.  Wellongtonians now enjoy a flutter of bird species because of one vibrant sanctuary – ZEALANDIA.


ZEALANDIA visitors (CEO, Chair and Board member) and Mulligans Flat board members, researchers and staff explore Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary together: from left – Peter Taylor, Paul Atkins, Pam Fuller, John Lawler, Denise Church & Adrian Manning.


These sanctuaries, although a sea apart, share striking similarities:

All are managed by community organisations. For Canberra’s sanctuaries–Jerrabomberra and Mulligans Flat, this is the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust, and for ZEALANDIA this is the Kaori Sanctuary Trust;

Unlike most wildlife sanctuaries, all reside in cities. And not just any cities, capital cities;


ZEALANDIA from Air Photo Creit - Rob Suisted.jpg

A view of ZEALANDIA from the air – showing the close proximity to Wellington’s city centre. Photo by Rob Suisted.


All involve strong research initiatives, that help to inform conservation management on a national scale.

Mulligans Flat and ZEALANDIA reintroduce locally extinct species, made possible by predator-proof fences;

Volunteer with Kaka at ZEALANDIA Photo Credit - Janice McKenna (1).jpg

The boisterous Kaka, was reintroduced to Wellington at ZEALANDIA in 2002, after being locally extinct since the early 20th century. This year rangers tagged their 800th bird. Photo by Janice McKenna.


The Eastern Quoll is just one of the animals that have been reintroduced to Mulligans Flat. It was reintroduced in March 2016, after being absent from Canberra for 80 years. They have had a successful breeding season in Spring and are beginning to establish a population in the thriving Woodland environment. Photograph by Adam McGrath


And perhaps most importantly, the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust and ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary, have an aim to engage people in nature. That is, to encourage people to care about native wildlife and get involved.

1.jpgACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, visited ZEALANDIA in 2016.


To strengthen these sanctuaries and their impact, the Woodland and Wetland Trust, and Kaori Sanctuary Trust, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

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Trust president Alison Russell-French and ZEALANDIA Chair, Denise Church, sign an MOU at ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary. Minister for Environment and Planning, Mich Gentleman, and former Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown, oversee the significant moment.


Despite operating in vastly different ecosystems, ZEALANDIA and Mulligans Flat & Jerrabomberra Wetlands face similar challenges, such as introduced predators, reintroduction of native species, and management of urban biodiversity. By working together they have the opportunity to learn from each other’s success, improving the natural world on both sides of the Tasman.


Engaging the community in citizen science: Mist-netting adventures at Jerrabomberra Wetlands with the ACT Young Rangers Club, Trust Staff, Canberra Ornithologist Group members, Hokkaido scientist and TV crew and researchers from Victoria. This photograph shows how close the city is to the significant wetland environment. The field work pictured here was for the international migratory Latham’s Snipe Project. Photograph by Elsie Percival.


This conservation collaboration is now opening up new insights in areas such as environmental engagement, research, and eco-tourism. With both sanctuaries operating in capital cities, they are working together to help further research in urban ecology and inspire communities through a shared vision of living with nature.


ZEALANDIA’s Visitors Centre will provide the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust with insights into building their own visitors centres at Mulligans Flat and Jerrabomberra Wetlands. Photo by Paul McCredie.


The sister sanctuaries have already shared a wealth of knowledge and worked together through staff exchanges and cross-promotion. The timely launch of Singapore Airlines’ Capital Express route and establishment of Wellington and Canberra as sister cities only strengthened the relationship, and both partners look forward to further shared conservation success.


For more info on these sanctuaries head to:

Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary:

Jerrabomberra Wetlands:

ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary


Alison Russell-French is President of the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust that works in partnership with ACT Parks and Conservation Service. She is a part time consultant and has a long association with natural resource and environmental management issues. She was a senior Australian Public Service manager and is a long time amateur ornithologist having been President of Birds Australia and President of the Canberra Ornithologists Group.

One thought on “Capital cities pioneering wildlife conservation together

  1. Great to see such collaboration. Perhaps we can Save the World, starting in our quiet, unfashionable, corner, and lead the North (and South Africa America) in how it’s done!


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