‘More love than labour’ for bird res­cuer


Ev­ery morn­ing Thomas the bi­sex­ual goose is car­ried from his aviary and placed next to a fenced pond at the front of Craig Shep­herd’s prop­erty.

The 33-year-old bird is com­pletely blind and has lived at the Ohariu Val­ley sanc­tu­ary since his de­te­ri­o­rat­ing heath, and a swan at­tack, forced him to leave Kapiti three years ago.

He was a well-known char­ac­ter at the Waikanae Es­tu­ary where he spent 25 years with his part­ner Henry the swan, be­fore the great split when he met a fe­male goose.

Thomas wouldn’t sur­vive in the wild and Shep­herd de­scribed him as ‘‘pretty high main­te­nance - a $10 a day goose’’.

Most of the birds re­ha­bil­i­tated at Shep­herd’s ru­ral prop­erty, north of Wellington, are re­leased back to the wild but a few char­ac­ters stay per­ma­nently.

Robo-duck, whose metal beak made news in 2012, wouldn’t sur­vive in the wild as his beak-brace might get caught on some­thing.

‘‘He has to stay here for his own safety. He’s a stroppy lit­tle fella though and he’s got a hell of a bite.’’

Fix­ing birds doesn’t come cheap and Shep­herd’s char­ity, Wellington Bird Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Trust, costs $100,000 a year to run.

Also not all res­i­dents are wel­come and a mo­bile aviary has been set up to catch and re­lo­cate a dozen pukekos that lurk around the prop­erty.

‘‘We re­ha­bil­i­tate them and they have a very nasty bite, but we don’t want them stay­ing around or the wild ones mak­ing a home here.

‘‘For pukekos, duck­lings are

‘‘Peo­ple are in­nately car­ing, some demon­strate it, some don't.’’

meals on wheels ... they just slaugh­ter ev­ery­thing...they are such a nasty bird.’’

While the pukekos are be­ing lured into their aviary, other birds have feed­ing sta­tions scat­tered around the 60-acre prop­erty.

When peo­ple find an in­jured or sick bird Shep­herd, known as ‘‘ The Duck­man’’, is the man they call.

A third of the birds he cares for come from the SPCA and the re­main­der are bought in by mem­bers of the public, vets and an­i­mal con­trol staff.

‘‘Peo­ple are in­nately car­ing, some demon­strate it, some don’t. When they see a duckling and re­alise with­out their help it will die, it brings out their com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy.’’

Shep­herd has been car­ing for birds since 2002 and much of his knowl­edge has been learned by ex­pe­ri­ence and trial and er­ror.

‘‘I’m just so lucky with the way things have worked out for me. It’s not a labour of love, it’s more love than labour.’’

It’s more love than labour for Wellington’s Craig Shep­herd

Shep­herd and Thomas the goose

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