'Everlasting mud' engulfing animal rescue sanctuary north of Wellington
They should be as happy as pigs in mud. Instead, they are drowning in it.
The Black Sheep Animal Sanctuary in Ōtaki, north of Wellington, is caught in the middle of a "mud crisis" that is jeopardising the health and wellbeing of their animals.
The sanctuary provides a space to rehabilitate and re-home abused, injured and neglected animals.
But co-manager Coces Vehreschild said unusually heavy rain and stock trampling had turned much of the 26-acre farm into an uninhabitable boggy pit.
It is the worst mud the sanctuary has seen in its seven-year history, which has forced them to undertake their biggest fundraiser ever to raise money for the earthworks required to fix the property.
Horrace and Doris, two of the sanctuary's 350kg pigs, have unintentionally been contributing to the problem by churning up the wet ground, Vehreschild said.
"The mud is deeper than our gumboots. This is like everlasting mud."
What the pigs started has now begun to affect the sanctuary's resident goats, who are used to drier conditions and now requiring zinc baths to prevent foot rot.
Out of the sanctuary's 200 animals, 11 pigs and 17 goats are at risk of foot rot, Vehreschild said.
"When we get new volunteers they can't even feed the animals. You just have people saying, 'can someone get me out of the mud'."
Much of the country, including the Kāpiti Coast, has experienced more rain over the past nine months than is typical across an entire year.
"People always think pigs love mud," Vehreschild said.
But that is not the full story.
They do like bathing in it, and they do like using it for sun protection, but they don't like living in it, she said.
Volunteers at the sanctuary have been trying to resolve the problem by rotating feeding stations and digging trenches for drainage. But drastic action was needed, Vehreschild said.
The sanctuary is entirely funded from money raised by the Opportunities for Animals shops in the Wellington suburbs of Miramar and Newtown, as well as in Ōtaki.
They have raised about $5000 but will need $6500 to cover the cost of hiring a digger and truck to remove the mud, drain the water from the pig paddocks, add gravel and create better drainage on the property.
The work will take several days to complete and is due to begin in the first week of November, weather permitting.
"It is a long term solution, so we are really excited," Vehreschild said.
Contact The Black Sheep Animal Sanctuary Ōtaki to donate, or to adopt an animal.