New Zealand opens first Kiwi hospital

New Zealand opens first Kiwi hospital

A hospital like no other. New Zealand opened its first hospital on Friday dedicated to the native kiwi bird, and its first patient was a chick named Splash who fell into a swimming pool.

Once considered 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 can get hit by cars. The more Kiwis there are, the more likely they are to need help,” said Njeri Sullivan, coordinator of the Kiwi Coast Society. “We wanted to make sure that stressed New Zealanders get the care they need.” The hospital is the first of its kind in New Zealand, the Ministry of Conservation told AFP.

The rehabilitation centre was built by Kiwi Coast in the Pacific nation's Northland region, which has a population of about 10,000 brown kiwis. There are about 26,000 brown kiwis living in the wild in New Zealand, about 1,000 more than in 2008, when they were considered a vulnerable species.

The first patient named “Splash” was treated.

The species is no longer threatened with extinction, thanks to bird conservation groups that eliminate predators such as stoats and rodents. Dog owners in New Zealand have also been trained to teach their pets not to attack the flightless birds. “But without continued effort, the brown kiwi could easily become threatened again,” said a Department of Conservation staff member.

The centre treated its first patient before the official opening: a young Kiwi who had managed to slip through a fence and fall into a swimming pool filter. “He was discovered dying the next morning by a worker at a nearby construction site,” said Njeri Sullivan. He was treated for a few days, and staff nicknamed him “Splash,” before releasing him.

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Splash was treated before the hospital officially opened. AFP/Dean Wright Agence France-Presse or its licensors

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 hospital, which is run by volunteers, has veterinary facilities and isolation areas “so that diseases do not spread,” explains the director of the hospital.

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