Takeaways no longer on Chinese Garden menu

Visitor services officer Summer Zhang feeds the "clever" goldfish at the Chinese Garden, in Dunedin, yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Visitor services officer Summer Zhang feeds the "clever" goldfish at the Chinese Garden, in Dunedin, yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
The tide has turned in a desperate battle for survival at the Dunedin Chinese Garden.

Shags and seagulls had been treating the garden's goldfish pond as a fast food takeaway since it opened in July 2008.

The rapacious birds were decimating the fish population, initiatives such as blackbird kites failing to keep them at bay.

However, a new breed of fish is fighting back.

"Earlier this year, we started getting a different type of goldfish from an estate in Arrowtown with a big pond on it and they've acclimatised really well," Chinese Garden manager Margo Winchester said yesterday.

"We've been keeping a bit quiet about it, because in the past they kept getting eaten.

"The shags come in and just swallow them whole. And they don't stop at one, either.

"But, this lot are surviving really well.

"It's not for want of trying by the shags. They still come, but these fish are different.

"They're good at hiding and keeping a low profile. They don't come from a pet shop, so they're probably a bit smarter.

"They know what a shadow coming over the pond means."

Staff have also been fattening up the goldfish with a daily feed at 3pm, to increase their chances of survival.

Visitor services officer Summer Zhang said some of the fish were now between 10cm and 15cm long.

"These goldfish are very clever," she said.

"If the birds come, they hide under the zig-zag bridge or out in the middle of the lake ... Then, once the birds have gone, they come back out again."

nigel.benson@odt.co.nz