Destinations

Fijian park works to protect endangered wildlife

Chris Hutchings - AAP

Kula Eco Park might be small in size – just 11 hectares in total, with 12 open to the public – but it is big on what it has to offer.

Founded in 1997 from the ruins of a bankrupt bird park, Kula is now Fiji’s only captive breeding facility whose aim is to protect the Pacific island nation’s endangered species.

It is privately owned but has teamed up with many key wildlife organisations around the world including the Zoo and Aquarium Association of Australia & NZ, Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, the Parks Board of NSW, and is an honorary associate of the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia.

A key focus is reptiles – iguanas and snakes. But, it also has birds – colourful parrots, doves and water birds – bats and marine exhibits, including tropical fish, turtles and soft coral.

Its bushwalk/natural trail along a one-kilometre boardwalk has information “stations” with boards pointing out many of the native plants and how the Fiji islands’ inhabitants traditionally have used them – for medicine as well as cooking.

But it’s not just a look and see park. Visitors can get up close and personal with some of its residents.

Some of Kula’s collection are once-injured critters rescued from the wild. Others, have been bred and hand-reared at the park with the aim of boosting native populations.

Kula Park has received money from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund to build a captive breeding program and head-start facility for the genetically unique Monuriki Crested Iguana.

Because they have been hand-reared and are used to being handled, Kula lets visitors hold some of its iguanas and snakes.

The park’s team see it as one way of educating children, and their often just-as-inquisitive parents.

The park is Fiji’s only free hands-on Environmental Education Centre for Fiji’s school children.

Children learn about how the ecosystems work, how they are being destroyed, how they can protect them and why it is important to do so.

Since it’s inception, it’s won eight Fiji Excellence in Tourism and Best Fiji Experience awards; the international Society of American Travel Writers Phoenix Award in 2012; and in the same year, the Excellence in Tourism Sustainability award.

The park is within walking distance from Outrigger Fiji Resort, or resort staff can organise a buggy to take guests there.

*The writer was a guest of Outrigger Resorts.



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