New Zealand is a land teeming with unique and diverse wildlife, and while encountering these incredible creatures in their natural habitats can be a breath-taking experience, it is helpful to know how to respond when you come across injured wildlife. In the first instance, get only close enough to observe if the animal is truly injured – it might be just minding its own business. Act to help if you note any bleeding or obvious injury.
Little blue penguins frequent our shorelines and, unfortunately, if you encounter them during the day and they don’t actively try to get away, it is usually because they are ill, exhausted and at the end of their life. You can move them up into the long grass and keep predators away, but make sure you carry them in a towel or shirt and don’t touch them directly – they have some transmittable diseases. Scruffy-looking penguins at the end of summer are likely just moulting, so please leave them alone.
Kereru, the NZ wood pigeon, can consume an overabundance of fermenting fruit in summer and will occasionally be found lolling about on the ground. Just like humans, this excessive alcohol consumption impairs the kereru’s ability to fly and balance properly, and they may collide with objects or crash into trees. Should you come across a ‘drunk’ kereru, give the bird space and observe from a distance to check it is not injured. The best course of action then is to allow it time to recover on its own, away from any potential hazards. They sober up eventually.
If you find an injured native bird such as a kereru, harrier, tui or blue penguin, approach the bird calmly and gently, using a towel or cloth to handle it to avoid causing further stress. Carefully place the bird in a dark, ventilated cardboard box, ensuring it is not cramped. You can put a hot water bottle wrapped in a cloth inside the box to help maintain its body temperature. Keep the box in a quiet and warm place away from pets and children until you can transport the bird to the vet or local bird rescue centre. At Wellsford Vets, we will examine the bird’s injuries and if it has a chance of recovery, arrange transport to Whangarei Bird Rescue for specialised rehabilitation and release back into their natural habitat.
Seals are common along the New Zealand coastline. If you encounter an injured seal, it’s crucial to maintain a safe distance, as they are unpredictable and may become defensive when feeling threatened. Keep all pets away and resist the temptation to touch or approach the animal. Take note of the location and appearance of the animal, as well as the visible injuries and call the Department of Conservation Hotline on 0800 HOT DOC. They will send rangers to assess the situation and provide the appropriate care.