New Zealand opens first hospital for kiwis

New Zealand opens first hospital for kiwis

New Zealand opened its first hospital on Friday dedicated exclusively to endemic kiwi birds, and its first patient was a chick named “Splash” who fell into a swimming pool.

Endangered, the long-billed bird's numbers have increased, prompting the opening of a dedicated veterinary hospital for the species in Kerikeri, a three-hour drive north of Auckland.

“Some people may get hit by cars. The more Kiwis there are, the more likely it is that some will need help,” said Njeri Sullivan, coordinator of the Kiwi Coast Society.

“We wanted to make sure stressed New Zealanders got the care they needed.”

A kiwi, named Splash, is treated by retired vet Lesley Baigent at the new Kiwi Rehabilitation Center in Kerikeri on February 2, 2024. Image courtesy of Kiwi Coast / Handout / Dean WRIGHT/AFP

The Ministry of Environmental Conservation told AFP that this is the first hospital of its kind in New Zealand.

The rehabilitation center was built by Kiwi Coast in the Northland region of the Pacific nation, which has a population of about 10,000 brown kiwis.

About 26,000 brown kiwis live in the wild in New Zealand, about 1,000 more than in 2008, when they were considered a vulnerable species.

This species is no longer threatened with extinction, thanks to bird protection societies that eliminate predators such as stoats and rodents.

Dog owners in New Zealand have also been trained to teach their pets not to attack flightless birds.

The center treated its first patient even before its official opening: a young Kiwi who managed to sneak through a fence and then fell into the pool filter.

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“He was discovered almost dead the next morning by a laborer working on a nearby building site,” Ms Sullivan said.

The kiwi, which had been treated for a few days, was nicknamed “Splash” by staff before being released.

Previously, injured or sick birds had to be transported for at least an hour to receive treatment, and some did not survive the journey.

The official explained that the hospital, which is run by volunteers, includes veterinary facilities and isolation areas, “so that diseases do not spread.”

A collaborator with the Department of Nature Conservation stressed that the recovery of kiwi numbers is due to good management of predators, “but without sustained effort, the brown kiwi could easily become threatened again.”

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