Parasites affect Okarito brown kiwi
A group of rare kiwi sent to Massey University's Wildbase Hospital with rashes on their bottoms have been cured of an irritating itch and returned to their island.
However, one bird died during treatment from suspected renal failure and a further eight sent to Wellington Zoo's Nest wildlife veterinary clinic died from what is believed to be a respiratory infection caused by bark in their enclosure.
Fourteen brown Okarito kiwi, known as Rowi, were taken from a predator-free island in the Marlborough Sounds last month after wildlife specialists noticed the birds' bottoms were inflamed with "crusty lesions".
The birds were split between Palmerston North's Massey University Wildbase Hospital and Wellington Zoo's Nest wildlife veterinary clinic.
Wildbase veterinarian Danielle Sijbranda said specialists discovered an "egg" or parasite in the soil had hatched and crawled through the kiwis' skin, causing the sores.
"We did a full range of tests, including samples from the crusty lesions to have a look at what the cause might be," she said.
"Under the microscope we found larvae from worms, so from contact it can crawl under the skin to travel through the body - it's not the normal infection from worms."
Miss Sijbranda said it was incredibly sad some of the rare birds died after clinics went to all efforts to save them - and in unrelated incidents. Early autopsy findings of the kiwi at Wildbase indicated it died of renal failure.
Last Friday the remaining kiwi were taken to Wellington and released by the Department of Conservation on their island.
"We have got some positives out of this, we've learnt more about the parasites now," she said, "so we can set up a preventative programme for the kiwi that live on the island."
There are less than 400 Okarito brown kiwi nationwide.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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