Vets answer distress calls of the wild
Massey University's Wildbase veterinarians have been answering the distress calls of the wild for more than a decade, and now they're making their own call for public support to pay for an extension to the overcrowded wildlife hospital.
Wildbase, in Palmerston North, has been friend and saviour to New Zealand's endangered and threatened native species since its inception in 2001.
Treating more than 1800 native animals - half of them classified as threatened or endangered species - it has been taking in hundreds more furred, feathered and scaled patients than its medical facility can fit.
Plans to add an extension will cost a little under $1.5 million and Wildbase yesterday announced that Shell New Zealand, a sponsor since the wildlife care centre was established, will foot $400,000 of the bill and will provide annual financial support for the next decade.
With a quarter of the amount required to be funded by the university itself, Wildbase is now seeking public donations to ensure it can continue its work with some of New Zealand's most vulnerable species.
Wildbase director Brett Gartrell says the 22-square-metre facility in which wildlife are fed, operated on and laundered is "cramped".
"We are juggling patients," he said. "At the moment we are having to turn [wildlife] away based on conservation status. Trying to keep it clean and keep infections under control is quite difficult."
The million-dollar plan to expand 10-fold to a 250sqm hospital would give Wildbase's patients and carers room to move.
Separate operating theatres, an intensive care unit and the addition of an exercise swimming pool and public viewing window for marine birds were among the new features Dr Gartrell said Wildbase desperately needed to service its growing animal patient list.
Wildbase also planned to expand its hospital facilities in partnership with the Palmerston North City Council to build an extensive rehabilitation centre at the city's Esplanade aviary, based on a comprehensive design simulating a wild environment.
Massey vice-chancellor Steve Maharey said New Zealanders could identify with Wildbase's conservationist spirit.
"What they are doing is something close to the heart of all New Zealanders," he said.
Work under way at Wildbase includes a study into kiwi health by Massey University wildlife veterinarian Kerri Morgan, who is researching disease in birds in captivity as part of her PhD.
She identified coccidiosis, a bacterial disease that mostly affects poultry in captivity, in four of the five species to determine which kiwi are most prone to the disease, with the hope of establishing how it can be prevented.
Public donations to Wildbase can be made at: alumnionline.massey .ac.nz/NetCommunity/SSLPage .aspx?pid=376.