Natureland Wildlife Trust Nelson
Two years ago, Meg and Mike Rutledge bought a zoo. “Actually that’s not quite true,” says Meg. “We formed a charitable trust, and the trust bought the zoo. There are three other trustees and I am the director. We don’t take a profit.” The Nelson mini zoo that started up in the 1960s at Tahunanui was still limping along when the couple first seriously thought about it two years ago, but it was very much in need of some inspired input. Meg is working towards a PhD in environmental management, and Mike has experience in marketing. So the ailing zoo was a perfect fit for their skills. It’s fun to wander through the 0.75-hectare zoo for cosy chats with the inhabitants. But Meg and Mike have more serious intent – to transform Natureland from a dated animal collection to a centre for native bird conservation in collaboration with other conservation programmes in the region. “Already we’ve rescued and released 120 orphaned or injured native species,” said Meg. “‘Skinks, weta, wood pigeons, albatross, and penguins among them. Last year we rehabilitated a black billed gull – one of the world’s most endangered seagulls –and after three months, were thrilled to release it back to a flock.” And in late January, 2016, the first Natureland-bred native birds, (yellow crowned kakariki) were released into Abel Tasman National Park, in collaboration with Project Janszoon. “It’s great to watch the animals explore the novel treats we’ve made. There is always something on the go…” Natureland Wildlife Trusts is open daily from 9.30am to 4.30pm. Jill Malcolm is a former editor of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations and author of the Great Kiwi Motorhome Guide.