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Wildlife vet clinic at Otago Polytechnic

Wildlife vet clinic at Otago Polytechnic

This summer’s looking a lot brighter for Otago’s yellow-eyed Penguins/hoiho. They now have their very own local hospital set up at Otago Polytechnic’s School of Veterinary Nursing.

The Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust successfully raise enough money to contract wildlife veterinarian, Lisa Argilla, for a second year. She has moved to Dunedin for the summer to care for injured penguins and says she couldn’t do it without the facility at Otago Polytechnic.

“These birds require intensive hospitalisation. I need access to the right equipment and a sizeable facility” Dr Argilla says.

Previously, injured penguins were sent to Wellington or Palmerston North for care. “One of the main problems we face is infection from wounds. Here, in Dunedin, we can start intravenous antibiotics within 24 hours. Because of that, our success rate of saving birds is much higher” she says.

For the past four years, barracouta fish attacks have been a real issue. Dr Argilla believes a change in feeding conditions has forced the fish to compete with penguins for food closer to shore. “Penguin chicks are about a month away from fledging, so their parents are spending a lot more time back and forth between the ocean and nest to feed them” she says.

Sue Murray, Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust General Manager, is delighted to have Lisa back for the summer. “We really need her expertise to help at a time when the yellow-eyed penguin population is at such a critical level” Mrs Murray says. “There are only 226 breeding pairs left on mainland New Zealand – that’s the lowest it’s been for twenty-five years.”

Barbara Dunn Senior Lecturer at School of Veterinary Nursing says Otago Polytechnic is pleased to support a local charity and southern wildlife. “We highly value the job that Lisa and her team are doing to help NZ wildlife, especially enabling the yellow-eyed penguins to be treated locally rather than having to travel long distances for care” she says.

Although yellow-eyed penguins/hoiho are the focus, Dr Argilla, who is New Zealand Veterinarian Association’s Wildlife Society President, is prepared to help any rare seabirds that get into trouble.

The first patient is a crested penguin, and is due to arrive at the hospital this afternoon.


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