Helping the South Island Wildlife Hospital help birds

Helping the South Island Wildlife Hospital help birds

We’re proud to introduce the latest recipient of Topflite’s SOAR Initiative funding, which will be put to good use with the purchase of lifesaving, bird-specific endotracheal (ET) tubes. 

Since opening its doors in Christchurch in 2014, the South Island Wildlife Hospital has become increasingly busy, receiving injured and ailing wildlife from around the region. Most of their patients are brought in by members of the public, and can range from albatross, petrels and dotterels, to kererū and owls, as well as several species of penguin.

“Sadly, the most common ailments that we treat can be traced back to human-induced causes,” says vet Fiona Gilston. “Everything from starvation resulting from climate change; dog and cat attacks due to uncontrolled pets in wildlife habitats; broken bones from flying into windows or being hit by a car; or eating foreign objects such as lead and fishing gear.”

For many of these animals, treatment requires anaesthesia, which in turn requires the use of ETs to carry oxygen and anaesthetic gases into their airways. Anaesthesia is necessary to perform all-important x-rays, surgery, and physiotherapy.

Above: an ET tube in use on one of the Wildlife Hospital's special very patients, a hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin

“Due to the unique anatomy of birds, we need bird-specific ET tubes which are not as readily available as mammal ET tubes. Because we treat birds ranging in size from a tiny 6g all the way up to 6kg, we require a range of sizes to accommodate the different-sized airways across our native birds,” says Fiona.

Run by the Wildlife Veterinary Trust, which is a registered charity, the facility is largely funded by the generosity of the general public, businesses, and trusts, in the form of donations, bequests, grants, and sponsorships. Many of those who work in the Hospital do so as volunteers.

“There is a lot of passion for wildlife and conservation driving the work of the hospital,” says Fiona. “As many of the species we treat are under threat from predation, habitat loss, or disease, to name a few, every individual that we can rehabilitate and release back to the wild is one that could help a local population continue or become sustainable.” 
Through the Hospital’s hugely popular social media channels, the public can get up close and personal with the patients, and learn about our precious native wildlife at the same time – expect to see close ups of beaks and claws, sassy faces and lots of cute, fluffy chicks. 
Documenting the rescue stories of animals helps to highlight the work being done by the team but it also educates on the dangers for wildlife in a human-centric environment. In fact, many of the Hospital's volunteers have come forward after following their social media, so it has become an important way of raising funds and awareness.  
One recent arrival is the Hutton’s shearwater, a burrowing bird that breeds around Kaikōura. “In our care at the moment, we have nine Hutton's shearwaters. Sadly multiple birds have crash landed because of starvation or light disorientation,” says Fiona. “This is merely a portion of the shearwaters that have required assistance, with many more being cared for in Kaikōura by volunteer rehabilitator Sabrina Leucht.”  
Patients often require the collaboration of multiple rehabilitation and transportation organisations to get them from the point of rescue to the point of release, making the Hospital an important cog in the regional conservation wheel, and one that we are proud to be able to support with this round of SOAR Initiative funding. 


SOAR Initiative