Gari the penguin prepares to fly to Sydney

Gari, tawaki or Fiordland crested penguin at Wellington Zoo's The NestA nationally endangered tawaki or Fiordland crested penguin named Gari, is heading to Sydney to live at Taronga Zoo, after receiving care and treatment at Wellington Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital, The Nest Te Kōhanga for over two years.

Gari was just a juvenile bird when she was originally found in Hokitika with extensive wounds to her lower abdomen and to her left foot. Gari received care and initial treatment by the Veterinarian team at West Coast Vets Hokitika, and then the West Coast Penguin Trust arranged for her to fly to Wellington to receive further treatment at The Nest Te Kōhanga in December, 2014.

Gari in his special box at Hokitika airport in 2014

Gari in his special box at Hokitika airport in 2014

“When Gari first arrived at The Nest Te Kōhanga, we performed a general health check and multiple surgeries to repair her various wounds,” said Senior Veterinarian Baukje Lenting. “We don’t know how Gari sustained her injuries but due to the severity of the wound around her lower abdomen, her vent has changed shape and location since healing. This means she would likely struggle to produce and lay fertile eggs in the wild.”

Birds with these issues have a high chance of fatality due to egg binding, which is when a female bird is unable to pass a fully formed egg. With this concern, Gari would not likely be able to survive in the wild, which is why she will remain in human care at Taronga Zoo, with two other rescued Fiordland Crested Penguins.

“Gari’s situation is rare and, even though she is an endangered tawaki, she can’t be returned to the wild, so we still wanted to give her another chance at a good life,” said Wellington Zoo’s Animal Science Manager, Simon Eyre. “We worked with the Department of Conservation, the West Coast Penguin Trust and the local Iwi, Ngāi Tahu and Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio, as to where she would live permanently, as there is no facility to keep her here in New Zealand.”

The only place in the world where Fiordland crested penguins are looked after permanently in human care is at Taronga Zoo, Australia.

“We know Gari will be in great hands with the animal care team at Taronga Zoo,” said Simon. “They have a lot of knowledge about looking after this species of penguin, and the zoo currently has two other rescued tawaki at their facility to keep Gari company.”

The Zoo will be holding a blessing and farewell ceremony in Gari’s honour on the 15th of May, where we will be joined by the Australian High Commissioner, His Excellency Peter Woollcott and his wife Tanya, as well as Inger Perkins from the West Coast Penguin Trust.

During the farewell, Wellington Zoo will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the West Coast Penguin Trust and they will officially become a conservation partner of Wellington Zoo.

“Working with organisations like the West Coast Penguin Trust to help save native wildlife is a crucial part of the work we do at The Nest Te Kōhanga,” said Karen Fifield MNZM, Chief Executive.

“Combining our efforts and expertise is essential to the ongoing conservation efforts of nationally endangered species, like the Tawaki. With this agreement, Wellington Zoo and the West Coast Penguin Trust can continue their great work in rehabilitating and releasing penguins back to the wild.”

Gari enjoying life at The Nest

Gari enjoying life at The Nest

While Gari has been receiving treatment at the Zoo, she has gained quite a few admirers, including the Australian High Commissioner, His Excellency Peter Woolcott and his wife Mrs Tanya Woolcott, who had a great deal to do with arranging Gari’s transfer.

“Gari has quite the personality and won the hearts of Peter and Tanya when they visited the Zoo,” said Karen. “Peter and Tanya put in a good word for Gari with the Australian Consulate, which contributed greatly when finalising her relocation to Taronga Zoo.”

“We would like to thank the Department of Conservation, the West Coast Penguin Trust, the Australian High Commissioner, Taronga Zoo, the local Iwi, Ngāi Tahu and Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio for all playing an instrumental role in relocating Gari to Australia. Gari is such a special bird, who we will greatly miss, but we are very excited for her as she begins her new chapter with Taronga Zoo.”



Footnote:  Gari has spent 29 months in human care and is probably around 31 months old.  She seems quite at home at The Nest Te Kōhanga and here’s a clip of her hopping onto the scales there last year.  Gari hops onto the scales (facebook page video, Sept 2016).



About The Nest Te Kōhanga

The Nest Te Kōhanga is Wellington Zoo’s animal hospital and centre for native wildlife veterinary care.

About Animal Transfers

Wellington Zoo is an active supporter of TRAFFIC, an organisation that aims to reduce illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade. Five percent of the cost for animal transfers is donated to TRAFFIC to protect wildlife from illegal trading

About Wellington Zoo

Wellington Zoo is New Zealand’s first Zoo, established in 1906, and is Wellington’s oldest conservation organisation. Home to over 500 native and exotic animals, Wellington Zoo became a charitable trust in 2003.

Wellington Zoo became the world’s first carboNZero certified zoo in May 2013.

Wellington Zoo is an accredited member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia and a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.