Powerful lessons in wildlife rehab tales

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 27/08/2014

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Plans for a one-of-a-kind native wildlife rehabilitation centre in Palmerston North have received a boost of more than $500,000.

Two grants to the Wildbase Recovery centre were announced at the launch of the project last night at the Distinction Hotel.

Central Energy Trust has given $480,000 and the Department of Conservation $90,000 towards the $5.3 million facility that will bring people face to face with conservation issues. Palmerston North City Council has already pledged $837,000.

To be located at Victoria Esplanade, Wildbase Recovery will provide aviaries and facilities for the rehabilitation of animals treated at Wildbase Hospital at Massey University.

At last night's launch Wildbase Recovery co-director Dr Kerri Morgan said the facility would teach people about conservation issues through the stories of the animals being rehabilitated at the centre.

"It's a great opportunity to use these individual animals as species ambassadors and tell stories about what happened to that individual animal, what's happening to that species in the wild and how people can help."

With each animal at Wildbase Recovery, information can be presented on where it came from, what happened to it, and what Wildbase staff did to help it.

Morgan gave examples, such as the case of a little blue penguin mauled by a dog at a beach. It could be used to tell dog owners about the importance of keeping their pets on leashes near penguin habitats, for example, she said.

Morgan said about half of the species treated at Wildbase were endangered or threatened.

Wildbase Hospital was small and was not ideal to rehabilitate animals that needed to regain strength before being returned to the wild.

The 2900 square metre Wildbase Recovery facility will include several aviaries, recovery pools for ocean, shore and wetlands birds and habitat for ground-dwelling birds such as kiwi and takahe.

Wildbase Recovery will be built and owned by Palmerston North City Council and co-managed by Massey University with support from the Department of Conservation, Rangitaane and Rotary.

Palmerston North mayor Jono Naylor told the audience last night about the project's origins, and how it had grown from a plan to replace the council aviary to a plan for a world-class facility that was one of a kind in the country and perhaps the world.

Naylor said the animals at Wildbase Recovery would change from week to week.

"This facility, you'll go in and see some birds one week, the next time you go back there'll be a different set of birds with a different story to tell."

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It would be different from a zoo.

"These are not captive animals, these are birds that have got their own stories of survival, birds that are going to go back to the wild.

"It's a unique opportunity to tell those conservation stories."

- Manawatu Standard

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