By Chrissie Morrison, Communications Adviser for Wildbase Recovery
Having always lived in the Manawatū, many family occasions have circulated around Palmerston North’s iconic Victoria Esplanade and its aviaries. It’s also a place I used to sneak out of school for; feeding apples to the kea and kākā during my lunch breaks. It’s no wonder then, that my role as Wildbase Recovery’s Communications Advisor is rewarding.
Wildbase Recovery, a national wildlife recovery centre, will transform the aviaries into a special place for native wildlife from all over New Zealand to recuperate post-treatment at Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital.
Wildbase Hospital patients include the internationally critical kākāpō; nationally vulnerable kiwi and kākā; endangered takahē and yellow-eyed penguins; the at risk kea; and the more common kererū.
Despite its importance to many national wildlife recovery programmes, and a new hospital due for completion later this year, Wildbase Hospital does not have the full rehabilitation facilities required for individual species’ recovery needs.
Wildbase Recovery will allow Massey University wildlife technicians to rehabilitate native animals at Victoria Esplanade. There, 14 purpose-built rehabilitation aviaries, an inflight aviary, and permanent breeding aviaries for whio and patēke will allow the public to view recuperating wildlife for free and without intrusion.
I’ve met some of the types of patients who will be transferred to Wildbase Recovery. Through these experiences, I have learnt just how vulnerable our native wildlife are. From yellow-eyed penguins, Haast tokoeka kiwi, to special one on one time with Ra3 a kākāpō chick, I have come to realise we can all play a part in their survival.
Through Wildbase Recovery’s individual patients’ journey back to wellness, generations of visitors will connect with conservation efforts. Onsite and online, Wildbase Recovery will provide high quality interactive storytelling and learning experiences that will link directly to the NZ School Curriculum and DOC’s national education strategy.
As you can imagine, such a significant project involves many stakeholders. Working with local and central government, a university, local iwi, Rotary and Lions Clubs, corporate sponsors, in-kind donors, and raising awareness with the general public – makes my role incredibly diverse and interesting.
Besides meeting some of our wonderful native species, highlights have included releasing a little blue penguin, and hosting the Hon. Maggie Barry, Wildbase Recovery Ambassador, Urzila Carlson, and Patron, the Governor General, Rt Hon. Sir Jerry Mateparae, as well as DOC’s Director-General, Lou Sanson.
Working with DOC also rates highly. In addition to granting a 30 year permit to the facility and $175,000 in financial contributions, their rangers have been invaluable at providing me with guidance and expertise.
I’m excited to say, we’re almost there. The Wildbase Recovery Community Trust has set itself the target of raising $700,000 by 30 July. We hope to have the facility fully completed by the end of 2017. Now is the time for everyone to get wild about recovery and send a little bit of love to our Givealittle page.
Reading the comment above about the cost and worth of rehabilitating single creatures reminds me of a story I once heard. Two people walking on the beach where an event had caused millions of starfish to wash up on shore who were unable to get back to the sea. One of the people picked up one starfish and threw it back into the sea. The other said, ‘What’s the point in doing that, there are millions of them dying here, doing that won’t matter’. To which the other person replied, ‘Well, it mattered to that one’.
Not one single study has been able to demonstrate that rehabilitating individual members of a threatened species does anything whatsoever to aid that population in the long run. This is a ridiculous waste of DOC’s money for no discernible result. It does not align with any of DOC’s own species management plans and it takes money away from conservation methods that have been PROVEN to assist threatened species (eg: pest control and habitat restoration). The cost of rehabilitating a single little blue penguin can be in excess of $10,000. That amount of money could fund a predator control program to protect an ENTIRE COLONY of little blue penguins. I know where I’d rather invest that money!
A very exciting project for all involved – and for future generations