From Cows to Kiwis in a Quick Flash!
It has been a huge honour and a great privilege to assist as a veterinarian with the process of preparing kiwis for their export to both Sanctuary Mounga Maugatautari and the Totara Block. Birds for translocation are required to have a health check to ensure that they are fit and well and will not transfer any diseases to their new homes.
Jenny and I have been volunteering with the TKT over the past year under the guidance of Sue Hardwick-Smith TKKR and Rotokare staff. We are starting to develop our telemetry skills, so we can assist with harness and transmitter changes and egg lifts. However, this project involved my veterinary experience to health checks the kiwis which is something quite different to what I have previously experienced. Jenny and I became part of the massive team effort that included volunteers, TKKR, TKT and Rotokare staff.
There were a couple of issues, one was that I had very little to do with birds with my previous job but TKKR had that in hand. Janelle Ward, a veterinarian from Maungatautari was going to come down to train me to take blood and other samples from the kiwi.
The other was that there was a very tight time frame to get the job done as DOC had imposed a date where all this had to be completed by as female kiwi cannot be moved if they could be carrying an egg, this of course was all cramped into a few short weeks due to the Covid 19 lockdown restrictions.
In preparation I watched a video by Janelle of how to take blood from a kiwi and one of my chooks “volunteered” to have blood taken from her leg vein. The big day arrived, and a team of volunteers went out to catch the birds and I was nervously waiting for the first one to arrive. Janelle was an excellent teacher and Fiona Gordon (from Rotokare) who has had a lot of experience with this sort of thing was very encouraging. I managed to get blood from the tarsal vein without too much difficulty, swabs and poo samples were next. The blood was used to make a blood smear. In the past I never seemed to have much trouble doing this, however, after having a year off and avian blood behaves a little differently from cattle blood, my smears weren’t coming out so well. Janelle kept on my case until I managed to get what she considered to be something the lab could use. Some birds had internal parasites that required them to be treated before they could be exported. Janelle coached me through the process of crop tubing so the treatment could be delivered into the bird safely. Once processed the birds were returned to their original home by other volunteers.
It was pretty quickly apparent that I had the easy job. The large teams volunteers, plus TKKR, TKT and Rotokare staff, were going out in bad weather into difficult terrain for long spells to catch these birds that were proving to be pretty elusive. The teamwork was amazing and thousands of hours were spent looking for the birds. This was a great experience and I am very thankful to the team at TKKR for asking me to participate and being supportive throughout the whole exercise.
Thanks also to Coastal Vet Services and Eltham Vets for assistance in this project.