Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Southern Encounter Aquarium and Kiwi House in Cathedral Square will close.

The Southern Encounter Aquarium and Kiwi House in Cathedral Square will be closed indefinitely after the Canterbury earthquake damaged their building beyond repair.

Orana Wildlife Trust, owner of the aquarium, reported that all staff and visitors were evacuated safety after the quake, but the building has been declared unsafe.

Chief executive Lynn Anderson said she was full of admiration for her team who had "poured their heart and soul" into the attraction.

"Over the past week they have worked incredibly hard, going beyond the call of duty and risking personal safety, to rescue and release many of the animals."

Although the building had been redstickered, staff were able to gain access to the site every eight hours to refuel generators keeping animals inside the aquarium alive.

Many of the land-based animals, such as kiwi, tuatara and geckos, have been transferred to other wildlife centres including Orana Park.

Many fish, including eels and over 100 nationally endangered Canterbury mudfish, were released into the wild.

Anderson said some fish died as a result of the earthquake and the remaining fish that could not be rescued were euthanised humanely on Monday. Some of those fish were too large for staff to rescue safely, while others would not have survived a transfer.

"Whilst it is very upsetting that Southern Encounter has not survived the event, we remain so grateful for the good fortune that all staff and visitors were safely evacuated," Lynn Anderson said.

The aquarium gave visitors a glimpse at some of New Zealand’s unique native animals and was a valuable educational facility, she said.

“We take this opportunity to thank the public for their support of Southern Encounter over the years.”

Anderson said Orana Park will be doing all they can to look after the facility's seven full time staff.

The $5.5 million aquarium was opened in 1997, originally focusing on freshwater sportsfish.

It grew to showcase more of the South Island's marine and native freshwater species, as well as native land-dwelling animals including kiwi, tuatara and geckos.

The facility hosted more than one million visitors over its 13-year life.

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