Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is in the South Island of New Zealand, near the town of Twizel. Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain, and Aoraki/Mount Cook Village lie within the park. The area was gazetted as a national park in October 1953 and consists of reserves that were established as early as 1887 to protect the area's significant vegetation and landscape.
Even though most of the park is alpine terrain, it is easily accessible. The only road access into Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is via State Highway 80, which starts near Twizel, at 65 kilometres distance the closest town to the park, and leads directly to Mount Cook Village, where the road ends. The village is situated within the park, however, it consists only of a hotel and motels, as well as housing and amenities for the staff of the hotel and motels and other support personnel.
The park stretches for about 60 kilometres along the southwest-northeast direction of the Southern Alps, covering 722 km2 on the southeastern side of the main spine of the Alps. The valleys of the Tasman, Hooker, and Godley glaciers are the only entrances into this alpine territory that lie below 1,000 m. Glaciers cover 40% of the park area, notably the Tasman Glacier in the Tasman Valley east of Aoraki / Mount Cook. Eight of the twelve largest glaciers in New Zealand lie within Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, all of which terminate at proglacial lakes formed in recent decades due to a sustained period of shrinking.
More than 400 species of plants make up the vegetation in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, which include more than 100 introduced plant species such as the colourful Russell lupin, the wild cherry and wilding pines. The native vegetation continues to be under threat by introduced plant species ranging from non-native trees through to lupins, broom and non-native grasses. These are mostly contained in the valley floors of the Tasman and Hooker Valley, since they are the most accessible parts of the park.
There are about 35 to 40 species of birds in the park and include the kea, the only alpine parrot, and the well-camouflaged pipit. The tiny rock wren/pïwauwau, a threatened species, is the only permanent resident high on the mountains. The park is home to many invertebrates, including large dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers, 223 recorded moth species and 7 native butterflies. A black alpine wētā, also known as the Mount Cook flea is found above the snowline. The jewelled gecko lives in the park but is rarely seen. Introduced red deer, chamois and Himalayan tahr can be hunted.
This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
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