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Wellington Zoo celebrating 10 years of The Nest Te Kōhanga

The Nest Te Kōhanga, Wellington Zoo’s award-winning animal hospital, is celebrating its 10th anniversary on 9 December 2019.

Vet Emily with Korora

“The Nest Te Kōhanga is a world leading facility that enables us to provide Zoo animals with amazing veterinary care, and it is a regional hub for treating and rehabilitating injured native wildlife from Wellington and further afield,” says Wellington Zoo Chief Executive, Karen Fifield MNZM. “Since opening, The Nest Te Kōhanga veterinary team has treated over 4,500 native wildlife patients brought to us by members of the community, the SPCA, the Department of Conservation, and ZEALANDIA. Many of these patients have been successfully released back to the wild.”

The Nest Te Kōhanga was the largest and most ambitious project in the Zoo’s history. The facility has significantly enhanced the level of care the Zoo can give all animals, whether Zoo residents or native wildlife, and has added a new dimension to the visitor experience at the Zoo.

“When we were designing The Nest Te Kōhanga, we wanted to provide first-class care for wildlife, showcase the work of our veterinary team and give our visitors the opportunity to see and engage with our team about the work we do to care for animals,” says Karen. “Each of the main treatment rooms in The Nest Te Kōhanga feature large viewing windows, so visitors can experience all animal check-ups and procedures. Our veterinary team provide expert step-by-step commentary, and visitors are able to ask them questions as they work.”

“We are inspiring the next generation of wildlife vets. Not long after opening I remember a child watching with fascination when the vets lanced an abscess on a guinea pig, turning around and saying ‘I want to be a vet’. Another time one of our young visitors camped under a sign for close to four hours, watching every step of an operation on a Chimpanzee.”

“We’re also building the capability of wildlife veterinary skills in New Zealand through the Masterate in Zoo Animal and Wildlife Health programme, run with Massey University. Two graduates of the programme are now working at the Zoo and other graduates have gone on to do amazing work for native species in the wild,” says Karen.

Since the opening of The Nest Te Kōhanga, the Zoo’s veterinary team have lead intensive procedures involving Zoo patients and treated a wide array of native wildlife species.

“One of the most memorable surgeries we’ve performed at The Nest Te Kōhanga was on Zahra the Lion, who had to have her ear canal removed after an on-going ear infection. The surgery was successful and Zahra has since made a full recovery,” says Dr Baukje Lenting, Senior Veterinarian.

“Over the years, The Nest Te Kōhanga team have been lucky to treat some of New Zealand’s rarest wildlife. Some of our well-known patients include Stella the Kākāpō chick, a Chatham Island Tāiko, Happy Feet the Emperor Penguin, an Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, a Hoiho Yellow-eyed Penguin, a number of Tawaki Fiordland Crested Penguins, as well as various species of kiwi and skinks.”

“We know that both Stella and the Tāiko have gone on to successfully breed after their restoration to the wild, boosting the populations of these critically endangered animals. And, treating all of these amazing native animals has allowed our Wellington community to get up close to wildlife they may never otherwise get to see.”