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Vets help injured, endangered wildlife survive

24 April 2008

Injured and endangered wildlife surviving thanks to Wildlife Health Centre veterinarians

The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) says World Veterinary Day, Saturday 26 April, is a great opportunity to highlight the important wildlife work many of its members are involved in, like New Zealand Wildlife Heath Centre director, Brett Gartrell.

Many injured, sick and endangered New Zealand native wildlife are surviving assault from predators, humans and other wild animals thanks to the centre, run by veterinarians and veterinary nurses at Massey University.

Brett says the centre plays an important role in researching New Zealand wildlife, treating and rehabilitating injured native animals and providing diagnostic pathology services to protect the health and welfare of wildlife, and to maintain biosecurity.

Brett says World Veterinary Day, the international celebration of veterinarians, is a fantastic way of showcasing the wide variety of areas veterinarians work in.

“We have many veterinary students coming through our programme at the Wildlife Centre, but it’s always great to raise awareness of the countless job options available to those considering veterinary or conservation careers.”

He says while the work his team do treating and rehabilitating injured native wildlife is important, their investigative pathology work is more significant as it can have an impact on native species numbers.

“The information we gain from post mortems conducted on marine mammals caught in set nets, such as Hector’s dolphins, is used to protect marine populations because we help determine things like the time fishing boats are allowed to fish for.”

Brett and his team also study historical and natural diseases in New Zealand wildlife.

“Our long-term goal is to understand the diseases present in wildlife and the risks feral and domestic animals pose so we can give conservation workers the information they need to save our native species.

Brett says although the centre has only been operating at full capacity in the last five or six years, they have already had some great successes.

“We were responsible for diagnosing the disease that killed three kakapo in 2003, for increasing the breeding rates of the black stilt following our diagnosis of iodine deficiencies, and for detecting a high level of lead poisoning in kea, our native alpine parrot.”

World Veterinary Day is on Saturday 26 April 2008 and is in recognition of all the work vets do, not just in traditional areas of animal health and welfare, but also in other areas such as wildlife, biosecurity, food, conservation, environmental study and disaster management.


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