Helping hand not just for birds

HELEN HILL
Last updated 15:33 25/07/2013
Linda Pharazyn
Helen Hill

Linda Pharazyn wildlife recovery centre manager, Kaikoura with injured kereru

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When Linda Pharazyn put her hand up and said she would create an animal recovery centre, it was her husband who had second thoughts about her impulsive gesture.

"We were at an i-SITE meeting and it was mentioned that there was a shortfall in Kaikoura of somewhere for people who came in asking about injured wildlife. I said ‘I'll do it'.

"I put my hand up and my husband Simon said what have you done? He thought we would end up with lots of seagulls but it turned out that has been the least of the things that we've had."

Mrs Pharazyn and her husband started the wildlife recovery centre in July last year. Situated in Chapman's Rd, at the very end of Postman's Rd, it is a long way from town and making it known was not easy.

"At first I got business cards printed and dropped them off at vets, and at the i-SITE and I asked the paper to print something every now and then."

Most people who contact her do so by phone, but some turn up with an animal.

"We have mainly kereru [wood pigeon], also thrush and even chicks with no feathers on them, which have been blown out of their nests . . . a lot of little blue penguins: when they moult they're land-bound and easy prey for cats and dogs."

Often she has to collect an animal, which usually means asking the person who reports it to stay on site, or follow the animal if it moves.

"Provided people are prepared to stay nearby and identify the animal that's a big help with collecting. And that tends to be successful because a lot of people are tourists and they want to see a good outcome.

"We often take the person's contact details because they want to know how it gets on. We're on facebook so people can follow their animals on that too."

Mrs Pharazyn has had a life-long interest in animals. A qualified vet nurse, she was raised on a farm, had horses all her life and married a Taihape farmer.

"As an adult I was working with a vet who suggested that I should study as a vet nurse. So I started studying. It was a bit scary, a two-year course, but I got through no problem and took on even more while my brain was still active. I did large animals and AI [artificial insemination]."

She is soon to do an oiled-bird recovery course with Massey University.

"It's really important that we have someone everywhere who you can turn to if this becomes an issue. We only need one person trained who can pass it on."

When the Pharazyns bought their Kaikoura property it was operating as Fyffe View Horse Treks. This month they closed the horse treks, but as well as the recovery centre they also have an animal park.

Mrs Pharazyn's permit to operate the centre prohibits visitors from seeing the animals in recovery; they can be on show only when they have recovered. "Otherwise the only way people can see anything in recovery is by personal request and that would be subject to them having been involved in the collection of the animal or in supporting it - looking after it or making a financial contribution."

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She has had up to 10 injured animals at the centre at any one time. Most are birds. Some are there for a few days, some for several months. They are usually taken for release to the same place where they were found.

"Each time something new turns up I think it's unusual. We have had a petrel - they're known as the vulture of the sea - with a very long beak which is extremely sharp so you have to feed them with great care.

"We had a baby wallaby: a hunter shot the mother near Waimate and didn't realise until he got close that it had a joey in the pouch. So that was brought to me. Lots of shearwaters, ducklings, pukeko chicks, little blues [penguins], shags, hawks, lots of ducks and homing pigeons."

The couple work in with wildlife centres around the country. Mrs Pharazyn said it was important to form links which would provide contacts when a problem arose.

"Massey University is great; you can ring them and ask about anything. We work with zoos - Wellington and Orana, Willowbank, which has just set up a recovery centre itself. A lot of animals that have been coming to us can go there now."

They also have a close liaison with vets in Kaikoura, Blenheim, Christchurch and even Wellington.

"With my vet nursing I'm competent in administering drugs of all sorts but I do work in partnership with the [Kaikoura] vet clinic. Any serious wounds go to the vet. I document everything I administer and they can see what I'm doing and make sure I'm working legally .

"I can't euthanase any animals. When an animal dies I always feel responsible and I'm always aiming to up-skill so each event is a learning curve for next time."

And there have been occasional altercations: the yellow-eye penguin now in recovery bit Mrs Pharazyn on the nose and the petrel bit her on the arm. That's a learning curve too: "We're getting face shields and we're careful about hygiene."

The Pharazyns fund most of the centre themselves, but because it is set up as a charity they can apply for funds. And a lot of people are coming along and asking if they can help.

"We have recently applied to Encounter Trust for funds to set up our soft release area [where recovering birds practise their flight skills]. CRT is going to help with this too, with providing special white netting so the birds can see it, and don't damage themselves when they fly into it."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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