21 January 2017

Penguin hospital opens in Otago

NEW ZEALAND  –  This (southern hemisphere) summer is looking a lot brighter for Otago’s yellow-eyed penguins. They now have their very own local hospital set up at Otago Polytechnic's School of Veterinary Nursing.

The Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust successfully raised enough money to contract wildlife veterinarian Lisa Argilla for a second year. She has moved to Dunedin for the summer to care for injured penguins and said she couldn’t do it without the facility at Otago Polytechnic.

“These birds require intensive hospitalisation. I need access to the right equipment and a sizeable facility,” Dr Argilla said.

Previously, injured penguins were sent to Wellington or Palmerston North for care.

“One of the main problems we face is infection from wounds. Here, in Dunedin, we can start intravenous antibiotics within 24 hours. Because of that, our success rate of saving birds is much higher,” she said.

For the past four years, barracouta fish attacks have been a real issue. Dr Argilla believes a change in feeding conditions has forced the fish to compete with penguins for food closer to shore.

“Penguin chicks are about a month away from fledging, so their parents are spending a lot more time back and forth between the ocean and nest to feed them,” she said.

Sue Murray, Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust General Manager, is delighted to have Lisa back for the summer.

“We really need her expertise to help at a time when the yellow-eyed penguin population is at such a critical level,” Mrs Murray said.

“There are only 226 breeding pairs left on mainland New Zealand – that’s the lowest it’s been for twenty-five years.”

Barbara Dunn Senior Lecturer at School of Veterinary Nursing said Otago Polytechnic is pleased to support a local charity and southern wildlife.

“We highly value the job that Lisa and her team are doing to help New Zealand wildlife, especially enabling the yellow-eyed penguins to be treated locally rather than having to travel long distances for care,” she said.

Although yellow-eyed penguins are the focus, Dr Argilla, who is the New Zealand Veterinary Association’s Wildlife Society President, is prepared to help any rare seabirds that get into trouble.

Hoiho hospital [press release], 17 January 2017, Otago Polytechnic

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