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New ground for Zoo’s conservation medical centre

AUCKLAND CITY COUNCIL

MEDIA RELEASE

8 September 2006

New ground for Auckland Zoo’s conservation medical centre

Monday, 11 September marks the sod turning for Auckland Zoo's New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine (NZCCM).

As well as serving the zoo's animals, the new centre will see the expansion of the zoo veterinary team's role in national biosecurity, native species conservation, research and teaching. Zoo visitors will even be able to view vets at work.

Conservation medicine addresses the connections between the health of the environment, people and animals - the likes of Avian influenza and SARS are key examples.

The Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust has to date raised just over $4 million for the $4.6 million dollar project.

Auckland Charitable Trust Chairperson, Penny Whiting MBE says, "Auckland Zoo vets are involved in many native fauna breeding recovery and research projects and specialist teaching. They have pioneered baseline health screening and disease risk assessment for native birds and reptiles in this country. Their expertise in these areas is regularly called upon by government departments like the Department of Conservation (DOC), Biosecurity New Zealand (MAF) and universities, as well as from overseas conservation-based organisations. All of New Zealand, both wildlife and people, stand to benefit from this centre.”

With outbreaks of diseases in some of New Zealand's most endangered wildlife such as kakapo, yellow-eyed penguin, mohua (yellowhead) and Hooker's sealions, and the looming threat of Avian Influenza, Auckland Zoo believes the establishment of this centre is more important than ever.

"The need for the NZCCM has arisen because of the huge demand and thirst for knowledge about wildlife diseases," says Auckland Zoo director, Glen Holland, who adds, "Over 50 per cent of our native vertebrates are classified by DOC as threatened with extinction. Extinction is forever. There isn't time to sit back and be complacent about this situation if we want to preserve these unique animals. Auckland Zoo, as a conservation centre, is doing everything it can to help ensure they are part of our future. “

Along with Auckland City, many organisations, trusts, and individuals have supported the NZCCM project, for which the Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust and the zoo is extremely grateful. Among key supporters are the ASB Trusts, Lion Foundation, New Zealand Lotteries Grants Board, Skycity, Chisholm Whitney Family Charitable Trust, The Southern Trust, Castle Trust, Portage Licensing Trust, The Trusts Charitable Foundation, Pub Charity and Mt Wellington Charitable Trust.


Auckland Zoo's veterinary hospital has been relocated to an on-site house while the NZCCM is under construction. The NZCCM is due to be completed mid-2007.

Some projects Auckland Zoo vets have been involved with over the past few years include:

1. Water-bird surveillance for Avian influenza and other diseases, in collaboration with the Department of Conservation and Biosecurity New Zealand.

2. Identification, through surveillance, of a pox virus disease that could be a major threat to kakapo and other native parrots.

3. Assessment of New Zealand’s capability for diagnosis of blood parasite diseases in birds.

4. Archey’s frog baseline health surveillance.

5. Wildlife disease surveillance in a range of species on sub-antarctic Campbell Island and other off-shore islands.

6. Training DOC staff in wildlife health investigation skills.

7. Training of Massey University post-graduate students in examination and collection of diagnostic samples from little blue penguins.

The Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust invites media to the sod turning on Monday, 11 September at 9.15am.

ENDS

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