Wellington Zoo releases nationally endangered Tawaki into the wild

Wellington Zoo Tawaki Release - Poppy, Arahura 16 Nov 2015Wellington Zoo veterinary team were able to release a nationally endangered Tawaki (Fiordland crested penguin) back into its wild West Coast habitat, after successful treatment at The Nest Te Kōhanga. 

Having been found close to Hokitika in September with an infected wound from a predator bite, the female Tawaki was sent to Wellington Zoo courtesy of Air New Zealand and the Department of Conservation.  She recovered well after receiving treatment from the expert veterinary team in The Nest Te Kōhanga.

“This Tawaki has responded really well to treatment during its stay at The Nest Te Kōhanga,” said Dr Lisa Argilla, Veterinary Sciences Manager.  “We cleaned and stitched up the wound, which due to the infection and pain meant she was unable to swim and hunt in the wild; she was extremely weak and frail when she arrived.  After treatment, she has steadily gained weight, been eating well, and displayed excellent physical fitness and waterproofing after spending time in the salt water pool.”

The bird flew south on Monday along with Wellington Zoo Vet Nurse Angelina Martelli, who provided care along the journey.  The Tawaki was released in the evening near the site it had been found in Hokitika, with support from a local Department of Conservation Ranger, and the rehabilitation volunteers who had found and cared for the Tawaki initially.

“This Tawaki was found in need of the specialist veterinary treatment and pre-release care that the team at Wellington Zoo is able to provide,” said Antje Wahlberg, DOC Ranger.  “We’re delighted to help this endangered bird, whose story helps people connect to Tawaki, and support conservation work as a result.”

“Caring for these precious endemic birds is a special opportunity, and a great example of the collaborative nature of conservation agencies,” said Dr Argilla. “Wellington Zoo has strong relationships with DOC and the local rehabilitation volunteers as well as with the West Coast Penguin Trust, which highlights the importance of conservation organisations working together to save animals in the wild.”

Wellington Zoo Tawaki Release - Poppy, Arahura 16 Nov 2015

About Tawaki (Fiordland Crested Penguins)

·           Tawaki are endemic to New Zealand and are one of our rarest mainland penguins.

·           They are monogamous and often mate for life.

·           Wild populations are threatened by fisheries bycatch, introduced predators and human disturbance during nesting season. Locals can help by keeping dogs away from colonies and keeping a respectful distance from nesting sites. For more information, visit www.doc.govt.nz.

About The Nest Te Kōhanga

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

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.