Kiwi House Staff

Jo Russell with MoaJo RussellJo Russell - Manager

Jo has been involved with the Kiwi House for over 10 years.

She has worked as the Education Officer based at the Waitomo Museum of Caves and the Kiwi House, been a Kiwi House Management Committee member and an active volunteer.

Jo is uniquely qualified to lead our staff. She has business and retail experience, is a superb educator and has realistic passion for conservation.

Jo's husband is affectionately known as "Pigeon" and her young son, Cameron, is already a keen volunteer at the Kiwi House.



Lizzy Perrett - Wildlife ManagerLizzy Perrett - Wildlife Manager

Originally from Hampshire in the south east of England, Lizzy completed her BSc (Hons.) degree in Zoology at Durham University in the chilly North of the UK. Her zoo career began in the Education Department at Birdworld, a large Bird Park in the UK with over 300 bird species. This is where Lizzy discovered a passion for developing animal experiences that give visitors a unique and exciting glimpse into the lives of the zoo residents.

After three years she returned to study and completed an MSc in Wild Animal Biology from the Royal Veterinary College in London. Alongside her MSc, Lizzy spent time working at ZSL London Zoo and developed her research on parrot nutrition that was conducted at zoos throughout the UK. This passion for good animal nutrition is something that has stayed with her and she is enjoying reviewing diets at the Kiwi House.

Lizzy then worked in St Lucia (West Indies) as a field researcher for Durrell Wildlife. Her time was spent monitoring Green Iguana nesting, collecting biometric data on adult and hatchling iguanas and assessing mongoose population and movements using radio-tracking and capture techniques. During this time, Lizzy not only developed her bush skills (she lived in a tent on a beach with no amenities for most of the year!) but also her interest in endangered species affected by introduced predators. It is no surprise that New Zealand was soon to feature on her Bucket List of places to work.

On her return to the UK, Lizzy returned to the Birdworld Management Team as Head of Education and Displays for over six years. During this time she created many successful attractions for visitors. This included a unique flying display featuring macaws, hornbills, kookaburras, owls, spoonbills, ibis... the list goes on! An experienced animal trainer, Lizzy has trained many species that other zoos have not attempted and works on bringing natural behaviours to the attention of the visitor. A firm believer that birds should only do what they want to and can be shown without gimmicks, all her displays were a huge hit with the staff and visitors who felt closer to the animals than ever before. Her role at Birdworld was diverse and Lizzy had overall responsibility for all information signs, school visits and public displays. She also ran the outreach programme visiting local schools and colleges, was the Volunteer Co-ordinator for the whole zoo and guest lectured on animal care in her spare time at agricultural colleges and universities.

In 2012 Lizzy visited New Zealand to gain first-hand experience of New Zealand wildlife. She worked as a volunteer research assistant on Ponui Island tracking North Island Brown Kiwi chicks, restraining birds for the attachment of transmitters and gathering of biometric data. Night work involved checking nests, assisting with the gathering of egg data and night filming of kiwi both by tracking individuals foraging and setting up remote nest cameras. Earlier this year, she moved to New Zealand with her partner, Dean (who is now the Team Leader of Natives and Exotics at Hamilton Zoo) and after completing a full animal department audit for the kiwi house, she has agreed to join us as our Wildlife Manager.

When asked what she loves about the Kiwi House Lizzy says, "the unique feel to the place... staff here treat every visitor like they are one of the family and are proud to show off their native animals. Everyone in the town has been so welcoming and I am looking forward to developing the experiences offered at the Kiwi House, while retaining its small and friendly charm."

Gina HeronGina Heron – Fulltime Keeper

Gina started life in West Auckland where she was raised on a horse farm. Later in life, Gina moved to a small town, but her dreams were pretty big so she completed a media degree in the hope that she could spend her days working amongst the hobbits where her small stature would blend in. Her degree led her to filming an amateur documentary in America, which she enjoyed so much that it inspired her to return to academia. She went on to study a Bachelor of Science and Technology majoring in Animal Behaviour at the University of Waikato. This led to a one-year studentship at Hamilton Zoo, where her passion for birds and reptiles was ignited. Although she worked primarily with these species, she was also a keeper of small primates, ungulates and other small mammals.

Since her studentship Gina has continued to work for Hamilton Zoo on a casual basis, whilst also developing other skills in her many jobs. She has worked on pest fish studies at Agricultural Research Laboratories , has managed a book store and has worked as a cleaner.

When asked about her new role at the Kiwi House, Gina said "I am so excited to relax into one single job (after quitting my four others) and to work with some amazing birdlife in an awesome new environment."

LouLouise Bradey - Senior Shop Assistant & Guide

Louise is known as the "Chosen One" - loved by Atu, our Great Spotted Kiwi, who normally attacks all the other keepers.

Louise spent many hours of her childhood as a volunteer at the Kiwi House, while her mum worked there, and joined the staff in 1996.

She is currently one of our Senior Guides and our Finance Officer. She has also been known to rescue visitors from some of our more amorous birds and has an 'eagle eye' for spotting geckoes and tuatara.

C.J. HemaraC.J. Hemara - Weekend Supervisor

C.J. has been a great addition to the Otorohanga Kiwi House team since January, 2014.

He cites his most rewarding Kiwi House work experience as the Kiwi feeding time, when he occasionally gets "attacked" by our star attraction "Atu", the Great Spotted Kiwi, and adds to our visitors' entertainment!

C.J. loves road trips and the beach, The Kea is his favourite New Zealand animal and he recommends visiting the Otorohanga Kiwi House, because you can see Kiwi close up, plus a lot of other New Zealand birds and reptiles.

KatieKatie Hammond – Bird Keeper


I SPECIALISE IN: Feeding the birds.

MY PASSION: NZ animal welfare, wildlife conservation (both local and international), travel.

MY FAVOURITE NEW ZEALAND ANIMAL: I love Kaka (NZ forest parrots) as they have incredible personalities and are so much fun! I also have a soft spot for the kakariki (red-crowned parakeet) korimako (Bell bird) and eels.

MOST REWARDING WORK EXPERIENCE: So far, watching the Kiwi chicks grow bigger and stronger and the progress they are making every day.

WHY VISIT THE OTOROHANGA KIWI HOUSE & NATIVE BIRD PARK: It is a fantastic way to see native birds, plus you are helping to support the ongoing conservation of many of the species at the park, especially the kiwi.

Sally FoxSally Fox – Bird Keeper


I SPECIALISE IN: Keeping the birds happy, well fed and cared for.

MY PASSIONS: Working with native birds, conservation, travel and opportunity.

MY FAVOURITE NEW ZEALAND ANIMAL: They are all my favourites, even the male Australian Shelduck that likes to give me a good boot when I enter his pen!

MOST REWARDING WORK EXPERIENCE: Kea training and enrichment with the Keas.

WHY VISIT THE OTOROHANGA KIWI HOUSE & NATIVE BIRD PARK: We are passionate about sharing NZ’s unique native fauna and flora and giving visitors a relaxing, enjoyable and informative experience during their visit to the Park.

Patrick CarrPatrick Carr - "Mr Fix-it"

Patrick returns to the Kiwi House from the building trade. In the 1980s he helped construct the Lockwood building and is now building and renovating aviaries and enclosures as part of the re-development work at the Kiwi House.

Patrick is a born and bred Otorohanga boy, keen on Rugby, Rugby League, softball, fishing and music. (Listen out for his singing while he works!)

You can also meet Patrick during his daily talks about native Longfin Eels at the 2.30pm feeding session.

SueSue Tucker – Caretaker/Groundsperson


I SPECIALISE IN: Keeping the park clean and tidy.

MY PASSION: I'm passionate about animals and the role they play in our lives.

MY FAVOURITE NEW ZEALAND ANIMAL: I love all animals equally!

FUNNIEST MOMENT HERE AT THE PARK: Wading in the Eel pond, and looking down into the eyes of a large Eel that was looking back at me.

MOST REWARDING WORK EXPERIENCE: Being part of a fantastic working team of people and a learning moment at every turn.

WHY VISIT THE OTOROHANGA KIWI HOUSE & NATIVE BIRD PARK: It's an opportunity to have a relaxed stroll through native trees and enjoy being able to see and hear our native wildlife.

MoniqueMonique – Senior Shop Assistant & Guide


I SPECIALISE IN: Making sure our guests at Camp Kiwi are happy, Weekend Supervisor in the Reception/Shop and guiding our visitors.

MY PASSIONS: I love the great outdoors, the beach and beautiful scenery, and also being part of a wonderful team here at the Otorohanga Kiwi House.

MY FAVOURITE NEW ZEALAND ANIMAL: The kiwi of course, but I also love the Pukeko and Tuatara.

MOST REWARDING WORK EXPERIENCE: At this stage... it would have to be feeding Atu, our Great Spotted Kiwi (who is on display in the mornings). She is definitely a challenge. Also, I cannot forget learning to balance the tills!

WHY VISIT THE OTOROHANGA KIWI HOUSE & NATIVE BIRD PARK: At the Otorohanga Kiwi House you can have the unique experience of coming close to a Kiwi (the best opportunity in New Zealand). We also have a beautiful selection of native birds, and a large dome walk-through aviary… and, if you need a place to stay, Camp Kiwi is right next door.

Te ArohaTe Aroha – Junior Shop Assistant & Guide


I SPECIALISE IN: Your souvenir needs and guiding within the park.

MY PASSIONS: Working on the farm and working with and learning about animals. I also have an interest in the travel industry.


MOST REWARDING WORK EXPERIENCE: Working at the Otorohanga Kiwi House. Being able to work with people and meeting many from different countries and learning about the different wildlife we have.

WHY VISIT THE OTOROHANGA KIWI HOUSE & NATIVE BIRD PARK: It has so much to offer New Zealanders and visitors to our country, because Kiwi are our New Zealand icon and Otorohanga Kiwi House is one of the few places in our country, where people are able to see the Kiwi live in their natural environment.

JessicaJessica Tucker

I'VE BEEN HERE SINCE: November 2009.

I SPECIALISE AS: Junior Shop Assistant/Guide.

MY PASSIONS: Animals, farming, hockey and anything to do with being outdoors.

MY FAVOURITE NEW ZEALAND ANIMAL: The Bellbird - for its beautiful song.

MOST REWARDING WORK EXPERIENCE: Meeting people from all over the world and seeing the expressions on their faces when they see the kiwi for the first time. Also, when they leave the park, seeing just how happy they are with what they have seen and learnt.

WHY VISIT THE OTOROHANGA KIWI HOUSE & NATIVE BIRD PARK: To enjoy a peaceful walk through New Zealand's native flora and fauna, with a wide range of native birds and lizards all with very unique personalities. And the main attraction is a spectacular view of our native kiwi.

KaylieKaylie van der Hayden


I SPECIALISE AS: Shop Assistant/Guide.

MY PASSIONS: Netball, being with my friends, travel and animals.

MY FAVOURITE NEW ZEALAND ANIMAL: Kea, because they are cheeky and intelligent.

MOST REWARDING WORK EXPERIENCE: Getting to show and talk about the kiwi to tourists and visitors, who have never seen one before.

WHY VISIT THE OTOROHANGA KIWI HOUSE & NATIVE BIRD PARK: Because it is the best place to see a kiwi and other native birds and trees found only in New Zealand. (Not to mention the great staff who work there!)

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