Wildlife hospital planned

A Fiordland crested penguin is operated on by Otago Polytechnic School of Veterinary Nursing...
A Fiordland crested penguin is operated on by Otago Polytechnic School of Veterinary Nursing Technician Emma Simpson-Boyce (left) and wildlife veterinarian Lisa Argilla at the polytechnic’s School of Veterinary Nursing earlier this year. Photo ODT
The dream of establishing a wildlife hospital in Dunedin, serving most of the South Island, has taken a big step towards reality.

The Otago Polytechnic recently signed a memorandum of understanding with The Wildlife Hospital Trust, enabling the hospital to be housed at the polytechnic's School of Veterinary Nursing.

''We're delighted to be partnering with the hospital,'' polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker said.

''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.

''We'll also be able to build research programmes around the information gained from treating the sick and injured animals brought in,'' Mr Ker said.

It is hoped the hospital will open its doors early next year.

The Otago Daily Times' sister publication The Star has also given strong support to the hospital project and tomorrow will launch an appeal to raise $60,000 to help make the hospital dream a reality.

This funding will help to buy equipment and also contribute to staffing and running costs.

Wildlife Hospital Trust co-chairman Steve Walker said the hospital would be able to handle up to 500 animals a year, ''mainly our native birds''.

Phil Ker.
Phil Ker.

This was a ''wonderful project'', and ''particularly exciting'' now it was close to becoming a reality.

Trust organisers said the hospital was the brainchild, about four years ago, of former Wellington Zoo veterinary sciences manager Lisa Argilla, and she had agreed to direct the new facility.

Dr Argilla worked at a temporary wildlife hospital in the city for nine weeks early this year, to prevent critically injured birds having to be sent to the North Island for treatment.

She said this ''fantastic'' experience had also saved 34 yellow-eyed penguins.

Trust co-chairman Andy Cunningham said Dr Argilla was a ''world-class'' vet and he was ''extremely optimistic'' about the project.

The hospital would be ''a very good thing for Dunedin'', further boosting its reputation as the country's wildlife tourism capital, Mr Cunningham said.

The hospital would be the only specialised facility in the South Island for treating native animals.

It was intended it would be open throughout the year, initially staffed by Dr Argilla and a veterinary nurse, with strong support from a lot of ''extremely competent volunteers'', but with the initial staffing expected to increase.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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