Endangered penguin bound for Sydney
An endangered penguin who has called Wellington home for the past three years is waving her flipper goodbye, and with help from some special admirers. Gari, the Tawaki Fiordland Crested Penguin, will depart Wellington Zoo later this month to live out what zoo staff hope will be a long and happy life at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.
‘‘Gari’s situation is rare and even though she is an endangered Tawaki, she can’t be returned to the wild, so we still wanted to give her another chance at a good life,’’ Wellington Zoo’s animal science manager Simon Eyre said.
Gari was a juvenile bird when she was originally found in Hokitika with extensive wounds to her lower abdomen and to her left foot. She was treated by a West Coast vet team before being flown to Wellington to receive further treatment at The Nest Te Kohanga in late 2014.
‘‘We performed a general health check and multiple surgeries to repair her various wounds,’’ senior vet Baukje Lenting said. ‘‘We still don’t know how Gari sustained her injuries but due to the severity of the wound around her lower abdomen, her vent has changed shape and location since healing. This means she would likely struggle to produce and lay fertile eggs in the wild.’’
While Gari has been receiving treatment at the Zoo, she had gained quite a few admirers, including Australian High Commissioner Peter Woolcott and his wife Tanya, who Wellington Zoo chief executive Karen Fifield said had helped arrange Gari’s transfer to Sydney.
Eyre said the zoo consulted with the Department of Conservation, the West Coast Penguin Trust and the local iwi, Ngai Tahu and Te Runanga o Makaawhio, as to where the penguin would live permanently, as there was no facility suitable in New Zealand.
Taronga Zoo is the only place in the world where Fiordland Crested Penguins are looked after permanently in human care.
‘‘We know Gari will be in great hands with the animal care team at Taronga Zoo,’’ Eyre said. ‘‘They have a lot of knowledge about looking after this species of penguin, and the zoo currently has two other rescued Tawaki at their facility to keep her company.’’
The zoo will be holding a blessing and farewell ceremony in Gari’s honour on May 15.
‘‘We know Gari will be in great hands with the animal care team at Taronga Zoo.’’