Marine mammals were the speciality of Napier’s Marineland. Opened in 1965, its main exhibit of performing common dolphins soon became a must-see attraction. In its first year it had 220,000 visitors, and by 1980, 3 million people had passed through its gates. Performing Californian sea lions and New Zealand fur seals were also on display.
New Zealand’s dolphins became protected animals in 1978, and Marineland was no longer allowed to capture dolphins in the wild. It closed in 2008, after the death of its remaining dolphin, and its future was in doubt.
Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World opened in 1985, in Auckland. The aquarium holds around 2,000 fish from some 40 species, along with sharks and stingrays. The aquarium was constructed in disused sewerage and stormwater tanks, and visitors walk through a long acrylic tunnel within the tanks.
The National Aquarium of New Zealand opened in 2002 on the site of an older, smaller aquarium in Napier, near Marineland. It features a series of tanks and enclosures representing different marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments from around the world. As well as some 1,500 fish, it has turtles, tuatara and kiwi on display.
The Southern Encounter Aquarium and Kiwi House in Christchurch has displays of marine and freshwater animals found in and around the South Island. It was opened in 1997 and came under the management of Orana Wildlife Trust in 2000. It has a well-equipped student laboratory, which is used by school classes investigating animals in their watery environment.