‘‘Now, they all want to be vets!’’
That was how Cecily Hoskins, a teacher at Aokautere School, called it after her class had visited Massey’s Wildbase animal hospital.
The year five and six group joined by parents and teachers, squeezed into the small dedicated veterinary unit last week as a reward for raising $500 to help with Wildbase running costs, and for being part of its school sponsorship programme.
The money was raised during a school walkathon, with many of the children dressing as animals.
Supervising wildlife technician Pauline Nijman, had kept the children in touch with what was going on at Wildbase with weekly email updates that included X-ray photos of the animals being treated.
‘‘They really follow the cases quite closely,’’ Nijman said.
‘‘Being in the programme gives them ownership.’’
For the children, the visit to the surgery and recuperation centre was an exercise in vocal restraint, as they were introduced to a kiwi with a broken beak. They were asked to be as quiet as they could so as not to spook the bird, or upset Eric, another recuperating kiwi kept secluded in the same room.
To repair the broken bill, the vets were trying a technique used to repair turtle shells, and were pleased with their success so far.
The children didn’t get to see the outside of Eric, who was quite sick, but they did get to see some of his insides.
Eric’s surgery was to to remove gizzard stones that had caused an intestinal obstruction.
Nijman then passed around sample jars containing some of the stones removed from the bird’s stomach.
Next, they were introduced to a one-eyed and partially blind tuatara with a prosthetic on the end of its tail. The children knew that reptiles carry their fat in their tails, that tuatara means ‘spiny back’, and lined up afterwards to wash their hands because reptiles can also harbour salmonella on their skin.
For the visitors’ benefit, an injured hoiho or yellow-eyed penguin was allowed a second break- fast, and made short work of it, swallowing a whole salmon in one large satisfied gulp.
Hoskins said the visit gave the children close encounters with animals they otherwise wouldn’t get to see, and that it was a real privilege to be involved in the Wildbase programme.
Wildbase technician Jamie Park with tuatara and Aokautere School kids.