Pukeko finally makes it home

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 11:30 24/08/2012
Louie the pukeko
EMMA ALLEN

Amazing journey: Suzanne Smith is amazed Louie the pukeko found his way back home to Renwick three months after she dropped him off at the wildlife recovery centre at Lochmara Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds.

Louie the pukeko
EMMA ALLEN
TOGETHER AGAIN: Susanne Smith sits with Louie the pukeko on her front lawn after he returned to her house by his own steam.
Louie
LITTLE NIPPER: Louie at just one-week-old.

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Louie the plucky pukeko has made his way back to his family near Renwick, and appears happy to be home.

After an epic journey starting from Lochmara Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds, via the town centre of Blenheim, to Renwick School, the adventurous swamp hen is back in the care of Suzanne Smith, who raised him from when he was one day old.

"I can't believe he's made it all the way back home from the Marlborough Sounds, through the Para Swamp and Spring Creek . . . it's amazing how they have those homing devices," Mrs Smith said.

When Mrs Smith found Louie on her lawn in February he was "just a ball of fluff"' with bits of shell still sticking to him.

She made Louie a nest in the laundry basket and got up every two hours to feed him crushed seeds and water, and to change the hot water bottle to keep him warm.

"It was just like having a baby," she said.

When he got bigger he shared the dog basket with her 13-year-old black labrador, who is wary of Louie after being on the receiving end of his aggressive beak.

Mrs Smith made the decision to take Louie to the Lochmara Lodge wildlife recovery centre when he was four months old because he was being bullied by other pukeko on the property.

Pukeko are known to be highly territorial and aggressive.

Lochmara Lodge property manager Ken Rowe had not told her that Louie had "flown the coop", so she was surprised to see him on the front page of the Express on Monday during his adventures in town.

His distinctive "twitchy tail" that sticks out at a 45-degree angle gave him away, she said.

Marlborough Conservation Trust aviary manager Diana Dobson had been looking after Louie after he appeared at Renwick School on Tuesday, and had dropped him home near Renwick.

Mrs Smith hopes now Louie is older and wiser he will be able to hold his own with the 10 to 12 pukeko on the Gibson River, which flows through their property. "We heard him communicating with them last night, and they've started coming closer today, so hopefully he will make friends," Mrs Smith said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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