The feathers of Dodo, the sleepy rowi kiwi, feel oily and a little bit rough.
Snug in the arms of wildlife vet nurse Emily Brewer, while Wildlife Hospital Dunedin Trust chairman Steve Walker and I look on in awe, Dodo is blissfully unaware of her status as a member of the rarest of New Zealand’s five species of kiwi – fewer than 450 rowi remain.
Dodo has been in hospital this month being treated for a fractured bill, and is one of four kiwi in the recovery ward at present.
The presence of the kiwi, along with a young harrier hawk, two kereru, a red-billed gull and a very rare kaki, at the wildlife hospital this week is indicative of the hundreds of sick and injured birds cared for at the wildlife hospital since it opened its doors in January.
Many of the 305 patients treated by wildlife vet Dr Lisa Argilla, senior wildlife vet nurse Angelina Martelli, and latterly Miss Brewer, carry a nationally critical, endangered or vulnerable status.
The most numerous patients have been yellow-eyed penguins (73), many with bite injuries from predators, followed by kereru (56), often with broken wings and fractured breast bones from flying into windows.
Success rates for treatment are exceptional: 86.8% of patients admitted recover.
The hospital also helps to monitor the health of iconic species, and performed a health check on rock-star kakapo Sirocco before his three-week visit to Orokonui Ecosanctuary.
Based at the Otago Polytechnic School of Veterinary Nursing, the wildlife hospital had enjoyed the staunch support of the polytechnic, the Dunedin City Council, and other partners since it began, Mr Walker said.
“The hospital has truly captured the public’s imagination and shown how much we all treasure and love our unique native species,” he said.
“It has been amazing how wonderfully the public has embraced us.”
The wildlife hospital has also developed a supportive relationship with wildlife organisations, which are able to help with ongoing rehabilitation of patients.
When the wildlife hospital opened in January, Dr Argilla and Ms Martelli were immediately under pressure, but the arrival of Miss Brewer in June helped ease that somewhat.
A graduate of Massey University’s bachelor of veterinary technology degree course, Miss Brewer feels very fortunate to have found her “dream job”.
“I have joined a great team – they are just amazing,” she said.
Wildlife Hospital Dunedin was officially opened by Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull at an invitation-only ceremony last night.