First penguin hospital opens in the South Island

HAMISH MCNEILLY
Last updated 18:23 18/01/2017
HAMISH McNEILLY/Stuff.co.nz

Wildlife vet Lisa Argillla treats a yellow-eyed and snares crested penguin at Otago Polytechnic

Hamish McNeilly/Fairfax NZ
Wildlife veterinarian, Lisa Argilla, treats a yellow-eyed at Otago Polytechnic's Hoiho Hospital
IAIN MCGREGOR
The yellow-eyed penguins can be found nesting near Moeraki.
IAIN MCGREGOR
The yellow-eyed penguin population is at a critical level with only 226 breeding pairs.
Hamish McNeilly/Fairfax NZ
A snares crested penguin at Otago Polytechnic's Hoiho Hospital
Hamish McNeilly/Fairfax NZ
Wildlife veterinarian, Lisa Argilla, treats a snares crested penguin at Otago Polytechnic's Hoiho Hospital

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A new hospital is saving distressed penguins from a long flight.

Dubbed "Hoiho Hospital", the facility opened at the Otago Polytechnic School of Veterinary Nursing, with a whiteboard outside detailing just the kind of care and attention the first two patients required.

Previously, injured penguins were sent to Wellington or Palmerston North for care.

This meant a long delay before critical intravenous antibiotics could be administered. Beginning treatment within 24 hours greatly increased the chance of saving a penguin's life.

The first two patients at the new facility were a yellow-eyed penguin, which suffered bite wounds to its feet, and a snares crested penguin with a large abdominal wound. Both arrived on Tuesday afternoon.

Both penguins were recovered from the Catlins and into the care of wildlife veterinarian, Dr Lisa Argilla.

​Argilla was contracted by the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust to care for injured birds over the summer.

Some birds would be injured as they "came in and out to feed their babies".

Barracouta attacks had been an issue in recent years, with a change in feeding conditions forcing the fish to compete with penguins for food closer to shore.

"Penguin chicks are about a month away from fledging, so their parents are spending a lot more time back and forth between the ocean and nest to feed them" she said.

Argilla said yellow-eyed penguins, or hoiho, were her favourite as they were "beautiful and quite unique compared to other species; they have a sassy attitude, are aggressive and don't like people".

However, she wasn't a fan of being bitten by a hoiho as "their bites are really painful".

"You want to avoid them if you can."

The yellow-eyed penguin population was currently at a critical level, with only 226 breeding pairs left on mainland New Zealand – the lowest for 25 years.

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