Just in time for Plastic Free July, Auckland Zoo is introducing free water stations at all its food outlets to replace single-use plastic water bottles.

Visitors are being invited to BYO or purchase re-usable water bottles from its catering outlets and gift shop, WildZone, an initiative the Zoo says will move it closer to its goal of phasing out single-use plastic – helping both wildlife and people.

Now CarboNZero certified, Auckland Zoo eliminated single-use plastic bags seven years ago, uses compostable food packaging/utensils, and is working towards the removal of all single-use plastic bottles.  The new chilled water stations, re-useable water bottles and coffee cups, will be available from mid-July, and in a few months’ time new purpose-designed outdoor water bottle filling stations will also be installed around the Zoo. The Zoo’s Commercial Manager Angela Clarke says,

We are delighted to be celebrating these initiatives during Plastic Free July, which also coincides with us commencing an exciting joint partnership with new caterers, New Zealand-owned Montana Group.

“Like the Zoo, the team at Montana are passionate about sustainable practices and waste minimisation, and will be offering a fantastic range of fresh locally and ethically sourced food. From its own bakery, Sudano, visitors can look forward to Montana’s Italian breads and sweet treats, and to cater to all needs, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and dairy-free/milk alternatives will all be part of the Montana menu,” says Angela.

Working together to turn the tide

Auckland Zoo director Kevin Buley says with experts predicting more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050 if current production and practices continue, we have an urgent opportunity to “come together to turn the tide on plastic to protect our precious marine species and their ecosystems that we are also totally reliant on.”

“We can sometimes feel overwhelmed and think, that as individuals, we can’t really make a difference, but we need to remember there are millions of us. At Auckland Zoo alone, we welcome more than 700,000 visitors a year, and every little positive action we each take counts. Whether that’s switching from plastic to re-usable shopping bags and bottles or picking up plastic rubbish at the beach, there is enormous power in our collective efforts,” says Kevin.

Zoo veterinary teams’ plea; “replace, reduce, reuse, and safely recycle”

Auckland Zoo’s veterinary team knows all too well the impacts of plastic on marine life. Rare sea turtles, shore birds, and even takahē, are among species they’ve treated at the Zoo’s Vet Hospital from plastic related injuries, including fishing tackle with hooks, bottle tops, drink wrappers, balloons and plastic bags.  Staff have also come across gulls in the Zoo grounds with fishing tackle and hooks wrapped around their beaks, heads and feet.

“We’re seeing first-hand how plastic kills wildlife. Just in early June we treated a rare green sea turtle that among other issues, had 2.5m of plastic fishing twine in its intestines. Among the 15 sea turtles we treated last year, we had a heart-breaking case of an endangered Hawksbill that starved to death due to having 106 different pieces of plastic blocking its intestines,” says the Zoo’s Veterinary Services Manager, Dr James Chatterton.

“A huge problem for wildlife, and all of us, is that plastic never totally breaks down so keeps accumulating. Now, along with millions of tonnes of visible plastics, our oceans are also full of plastic micro-particles, which are in everything from plankton to fish.

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The best thing we can all do to prevent more plastic going into our environment – into our oceans, lakes, rivers, waterways, coastlines and also on land – is to replace, reduce, re-use and really importantly, safely recycle.

Dr James Chatterton, Veterinary Services Manager