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Visiting the zoo is a memorable part of many Kiwi kid’s childhoods, but for some families facing hardship, it can be something a child may never experience.

The Warehouse Zoofari Programme brings together Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington Zoos, and Orana Wildlife Park for an initiative that enables kids from low-decile schools to visit zoos and learn about conservation and the environment as an integrated part of their school learning programme.

Last year, more than 12,000 children nationally benefited from the programme after The Warehouse customers helped raise $305,961 for Zoofari. The funds support the cost of transport, entry and a class session with a Zoo educator.

“The children who participate in Zoofari are Aotearoa’s future wildlife conservationists, vets, zookeepers, teachers and wildlife documentary makers – and The Warehouse Zoofari programme is what may help spark that passion and begin that journey,” says Auckland Zoo director Kevin Buley.

“Over the time that Zoofari has been at Auckland Zoo, we have seen what a positive experience it can be for everyone involved. Our wonderful zoo educators see both children and adults being inspired from the moment they arrive and long after they have left. They learn about the way we care for our animals at the Zoo, the way we help wildlife in the wild and, importantly, what each of us can do to help make the world a better place.”

Amy Hughes, Wellington Zoo’s General Manager Communication, Experience and Conservation, says they can always tell when there is a Zoofari school visiting.

“They are so excited to be here and are positively buzzing with the experience. It’s humbling to think that we are providing learning experiences for kids (and their parent helpers) that they are likely to remember for the rest of their lives. One that sticks with me is when a Zoofari school were here for a sleepover and one of the kids couldn’t believe they were actually in the capital city of New Zealand. It is an amazing programme”.

For many pupils it is their first experience of a zoo, say their teachers.

“A number of our students have never visited a zoo before and a number of them don't get the opportunity to travel that far out of our town. Our students completed a Zoo Life unit before our visit and they were able to extend their learning by seeing things first hand and observing the animals in their habitats. Sometimes it's much more meaningful seeing things in real life rather than learning about it in the classroom, and this was definitely one of those moments. Thank you to The Warehouse and Hamilton Zoo for giving us this opportunity!” (comment from Waikato teacher)

Zoofari also gives students a real-world experience of conservation and sustainability:

“Thank you very much for showing us all those amazing animals. It’s sad how some of the animals are so near extinction because of humans. My favourite animals were the giraffes and cheetahs. The giraffes were so elegant, and the cheetah were just amazing.”

“We loved coming to Orana Park. We have decided to: a) make sure our pets don’t harm endangered animals, b) tell people to not cut down all the trees in the forests and take away the special homes for our endangered animals, c) not feed wild animals, they need to look for their own food.”

You can support Zoofari at your local The Warehouse store by adding a donation to your purchases at the checkout.

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