Locals have pitched in to help Palmerston North's Staglands wildlife park after its future was thrown into doubt by the Covid-19 pandemic.
One of the country's most enduring wildlife attractions, the park has been situated on Akatarawa Road, in the middle of the Tararua bush, for the past 50-odd years.
“The essence of the place has never changed and I think that's what a lot of people really like,” co-owner Sarah Purdy told Seven Sharp.
“We now have grandparents bringing their grandchildren and they'll say it's still the same hands-on interaction.”
While animals are typically skittish and wary of humans, the ones here are almost unnervingly carefree.
When Staglands was started by John Simister, who helped save the kunekune pig from extinction in the 1980s, the world was a different place.
“It's about that whole integrated thing of nature, and that makes it very special, and people like nature. Nature's good for the soul,” Ms Purdy said.
While the park may have endured all nature of recessions and stagnations, the closure of the park due to the coronavirus pandemic caused some serious doubt about its future.
Rather than asking for public donations to survive, the park instead started pre-selling tickets during the lockdown. However, the public soon started demanding to donate.
“It was particularly for our confidence and morale, like everyone kind of knew that there were people out there in the community that were really keen to support us and that's huge.”
One visitor has been to the park three times since it reopened 10 days ago.
For those in the lower North Island, it was worth the wait.
"I think they get recharged. Everyone benefits from nature, just recharges your soul, just puts you back in a good space."