Kiwi fit to return to the wild

Wildbase resident Veterinarian Megan Jolly and supervisor wildlife technician Pauline Nijman treating the kiwi.

A feisty brown kiwi, dubbed Albion, from Taranaki was released back into the wild over the weekend after a month-long stay in Massey University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Wildbase. The adult female has been under the care of the Wildbase veterinary team for the last four weeks after she was found caught in a possum trap.

When the kiwi was discovered, East Taranaki Environment Trust members took her to Energy City Vets in Inglewood where first aid was administered. The members then drove the kiwi to the teaching hospital in Palmerston North.

Wildbase director Professor Brett Gartrell said the veterinary team members were familiar with the injuries sustained and knew that infection in the wounds was the biggest risk. Albion’s right leg was crushed and an x-ray revealed a cracked bone, so the leg was splinted. Albion had an intravenous catheter placed into her leg so fluids, antibiotics and pain relief could be given with minimal stress. She was kept warm during her recovery in a paediatric incubator, which is used for the most critical patients.

“Albion has got stronger and stroppier every day she has been in hospital. We were able to remove the splint after three weeks, and the wounds have now closed over and look very healthy. Albion is using her leg well, especially when it comes to ninja-kicking the staff.” 

Female kiwi.

“A big problem for wild kiwi in hospitals is getting them to eat. Like many wild kiwi, Albion turned up her nose at hospital food, so she had to be assist-fed twice a day during her time in hospital with a special kiwi-mix recipe. This kept her in good condition and allowed the bones to heal and her crush injury to slowly repair.

He said the team members were confident Albion had the fitness and spirit to survive in the wild.

"Possum trapping is essential to pest control efforts in New Zealand but, in areas where kiwi are present, it is important to place the traps at least 35cm off the ground to protect native birds. It is also important to use only legal traps and to check them regularly."

Based at Massey’s Manawatū campus, Wildbase provides medical and surgical care and rehabilitation to sick and injured native animals so they can be returned to the wild. It contributes significantly to the conservation of many native species, including New Zealand’s unique and endangered takahē and kiwi. It offers four areas of wildlife health: hospital, oil response, research and pathology. The care of native wildlife is made possible by donations and sponsorship, especially thanks to our gold conservation partner, Shell New Zealand.

Albion was picked up and released on Saturday by members of the East Taranaki Environment Trust.

You can see video footage of Albion in hospital on the Wildbase Hospital Facebook page.

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