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Nelson’s Natureland Zoo names new acting Director

Nelson’s Natureland Zoo names new acting Director
March 31, 2019

Natureland Wildlife Trust has announced the appointment of international zoological adviser Grant Abel as acting Director of Nelson’s Natureland Zoo.

Abel has more than 25 years of leadership and hands-on experience in zoos and aquaria in Asia, and continues to provide consultancy services internationally.

Announcing the appointment, Alan Hinton, Chairman of the Natureland Wildlife Trust, stated “we are thrilled to make the announcement of Grant’s appointment, especially at this crucial time for the zoo.

“This will provide important continuity and reassurance for our community and our staff while the Trust continues its negotiations with Council. It also signals our intention to continue to provide a zoo of which Nelson Tasman can be proud.”

Hinton said that Abel brings tremendous industry knowledge, business acumen, and international insight to guide the exceptional team at Natureland Zoo, adding “as a member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA), Natureland Zoo is one of Nelson Tasman’s important attractions for recreation, tourism, education, and conservation. I am confident that Grant’s strategic vision, deep passion for wildlife conservation, significant expertise in caring for animals, and commitment to fostering the best professionals in the industry will further augment our zoo. He has what it takes to deliver our goals for education and conservation while continuing to boost our appeal to both New Zealanders and international visitors."

Born in Christchurch, Abel (pictured below) was raised in Hawkes Bay until the age of 13, when his family moved to Hong Kong. He has worked in zoos, aquaria, and commercial enterprises in Hong Kong, Japan, and Australia. He has also engaged in wildlife conservation projects and delivered staff training programmes in countries including Mainland China, Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, and Nepal.

Abel’s prior role was at Ocean Park Hong Kong, one of the world’s largest zoological theme parks.

Having been initially employed as the Park’s General Curator Abel later became Director of Animal Care, leading the zoological team. Under his leadership the team consistently maintained its accreditation with the US-based Association of Zoos and Aquariums and earned the American Humane Association’s Humane Certified seal of approval for animal welfare.

Looking forward to his new role, Abel advised “having recently returned to New Zealand with my wife and young daughter, it is a privilege to play an integral role in Natureland Zoo’s future.

“Now more than ever, wildlife and wild places need humanity’s attention to preserve their existence, their essential contribution to a healthy planet, and their magic for our children and grandchildren. Natureland Zoo plays a part in creating this magic and, indeed brings conservation right to our doorstep. I am excited to support the dedicated team in their mission to provide a zoo that brings people closer to nature while serving the needs of the animals in its care.”

Abel’s appointment comes after the resignation of former Director Meg Rutledge who was farewelled on 22nd March.

Commenting on this, Hinton concluded “Meg made a profound and significant contribution during her tenure.

“We are very grateful for her hard work and dedication during her five years at Natureland. We know that Grant will honour the legacy Meg leaves behind and will build on the great work that she and the Natureland team have done to help secure the future of our community’s zoo.”

Natureland recently advised that it will close, and potentially euthanise some animals, if it doesn't receive more funding from the Nelson City Council.

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