The dream of a wildlife hospital in Dunedin is about to become a reality, three years after the idea was first mooted.
The brainchild of world-renowned avian and wildlife veterinarian Dr Lisa Argilla, Wildlife Hospital Dunedin is preparing to open in mid-January.
The Wildlife Hospital Trust, a small, dedicated band of supporters, recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Otago Polytechnic to house the hospital in the School of Veterinary Nursing in Albany St.
Now the Wildlife Hospital has a permanent home, the trust must move quickly to raise funds for vital equipment and supplies, as well as funding for a permanent vet nurse to work with Dr Argilla.
The Star is supporting the fundraising effort by launching the “Saving Our Native Species” campaign, with the target of raising at least $60,000 by Christmas.
The Star editor Bruce Quirey said the Wildlife Hospital was a “fantastic concept” and it was exciting for the newspaper to support it.
Wildlife Hospital Trust co-chairmen Steve Walker and Andy Cunningham and trustee Jordana Whyte said they were thrilled to have The Star‘s support for the final push to get the facility up and running.
“It has been a wonderful project to be involved with so far, and [is] particularly exciting now it’s close to becoming a reality,” Mr Walker said.
“We believe there will be numerous people in the community who will also want to get behind this, both financially and as volunteers.”
Mr Cunningham said the Wildlife Hospital was urgently needed, as many native species faced major threats to their survival.
“Every life counts, so we must step up to help animals and birds that are sick and injured,” he said.
Speaking from Wellington, Dr Argilla said she was “very committed” to the Wildlife Hospital project, which would eventually be able to handle about 500 sick or injured animals each year.
“New Zealand native wildlife is my passion and being able to put all the knowledge and expertise I have gained .. to benefit the wildlife of the South Island is so very important to me.
“Dunedin is the wildlife capital of New Zealand, so it seems like the logical next step to have a wildlife hospital based in the city to take care of sick and injured wildlife,” she said.
The current protocol of sending sick or injured wildlife to the North Island was “less than ideal”, and having a hospital in Dunedin would ensure a quicker response.
Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker said his organisation was “delighted” to be partnering with the hospital.
“Not only is it the right thing to do for our wildlife, but we can use the expertise the hospital staff will bring for teaching our veterinary nursing students and graduates,” he said.
Otago Polytechnic external relations director Mike Waddell said supporting the Wildlife Hospital was a “no-brainer”.
“When you’re sitting in a place like this, where we have such diverse wildlife and so much eco-tourism, having a wildlife hospital is important,” he said.
“And, of course, there will be amazing educational opportunities for our students as well.”
Dr Argilla paid tribute to the Wildlife Hospital Trust members for their hard work.
She also acknowledged AMP for awarding her the Dare to Dream Scholarship last year to put towards the project.
How to donate
The Wildlife Hospital Trust needs your support to raise at least $60,000 to fund equipment and a vet nurse’s salary.
Ongoing funding will also be needed to help pay for medicines, bandages and other equipment in the hospital’s first year.
All donations, large and small, will make a difference.
You can make a bank transfer or set up an automatic payment to account number
To donate online, visit www.wildlifehospitaldunedin.org.nz/donate.
Send a cheque to The Wildlife Hospital Trust, 40 Sutcliffe St, St Clair, Dunedin 9012.