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How to submit specimens

The three important points to consider when submitting an animal for post mortem are:

  • Preservation
  • Documentation
  • Packaging


To be of most benefit, post mortem examination should be performed as close to the time of death as possible. If this isn’t possible, place the animal in a refrigerator (approx 4 degrees C) as soon after death as possible, and then send as soon as possible (please don’t send over the weekend). Freezing the body interferes with results and should be a last resort. Fixing a body whole in formalin or 70 percent alcohol, or field dissection and submission of fixed tissues for histopathology, are alternatives that can be used in some circumstances.

If you are collecting material into fixatives, remember skin contact and inhalation of formalin is hazardous. The volume of fixative needed is 10 times the amount of tissue you are fixing; for example, 100 g of tissue needs 1 L of formalin. The smaller the piece of tissue the better the fixation; ideally, pieces of tissue should be no thicker than 1 cm to allow for rapid fixation. It is surprising how much information can be gleaned even from fairly decomposed specimens, so do not let a rotten carcass discourage you from submitting it for post mortem.


Proper documentation is essential to get the most benefit from the post mortem. The Huia database submission form (PDF file) should be sent with the body or faxed to 06 350 5636. If this isn’t possible, please include the following information: 

  • Animal, tissue or specimen identification (including species, individual’s ID)
  • Geographical location where animal was found, time of collection (who, what, where, when?)
  • Any history you think relevant; for example, previous signs of ill-health, use of toxins/baits in the area. The more history you provide the better
  • Any other special requests; our routine practice is to try to establish a cause of death and other intercurrent diseases when a whole body is submitted. You may want to know something else instead of or in addition to these things
  • Let us know what you would like us to do with the remains of the body; would you like it returned or disposed of? Let us know if you would like the animal returned for taxidermy purposes as we will need to modify the post-mortem technique


To prevent contamination of people and equipment with potentially infectious or hazardous substances, a suitably sized polystyrene foam chilly bin is best. Alternatives can include a cardboard box with newspaper and bubble-wrap protecting the well-wrapped and bagged body. Freezer blocks can be improvised using 500 mL plastic PET drink-bottles—don't quite fill them and put them in your freezer. To contain the body and prevent any leakage, use multiple tear- and puncture-resistant sealed plastic bags, or plastic containers with firmly screwed down tight-fitting lids; don’t use glass. Place the submission form in a separate plastic bag.

Send to:

Att: Stuart Hunter
Wildlife Post Mortem Service
School of Veterinary Science
Massey University
Tennent Drive
Palmerston North 4410
  • Mark the package: Urgent, Perishable or Keep Cool, Do Not Freeze.
  • Inform us by email, phone or fax so we know to expect a parcel 
  • The Huia database submission form (PDF file) can be included with the animal’s body and/or emailed/faxed to the above contacts 
  • The following courier companies are recommended: 
    • NZ Couriers
    • Tranzlink

In summary:

  • Chill and despatch ASAP
  • Identify and specify what you want in the documentation
  • Contain, preserve and protect in transit by appropriate packaging