Tune in, because every month we are going to be interviewing bird rehabilitators from all over New Zealand!
- First off, the most important question... What's your favourite NZ native bird?
Well, hard one but I have to pick two, Kereru definitely, not because of their intelligence haha, but I have learnt a lot from them.
Secondly the Little Blue Penguin, the hardship they face, the brave attitudes and absolutely the cutest.
Illustration by Jemma McLean
- Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you have done?
My life with animals started when I was young and I knew one day I would work with them. After college I trained as a veterinary nurse, and started working in a large clinic in my hometown, Amersfoort in Holland. In our Animal Hospital we had 8 Veterinarians, 5 Farm Vets, 3 Domestic and Exotics and a number of nurses and Office staff.
Loved my job, especially my shifts assisting surgery, going out to the farms occasionally, and those amazing moments when small Zoo animals came in for treatment. One of our Veterinarians Peter Werkman, was the first International Exotic Vet who was recognised to do surgical procedures on tropical fish.
After six years I had the urge to move to NZ and immigrated after accepting a job at Lynfield Vet Clinic in Auckland.
- What inspired you to pursue a career in wildlife rehabilitation?
Interestingly enough, birds weren't my favourite species at all but as it became part of my job soon I was getting used to feathers and claws. We largely took care of Lynn McDonald's birds who was then doing bird rescue from her home in West Auckland. Lyn's dedication stayed with me ever since. I made many visits to and from her place and later to Green Bay which is now BirdCare Aotearoa.
After 12 years working at Lynfield I met my husband and we started a family ( I had to hurry up at 36...) and we eventually moved to Kuaotunu in Coromandel in 2005. A very close knit community and soon people started to arrive at my doorstep with injured and abandoned birds.
From starting out in our laundry with a few cages I soon had to learn a whole lot more. Vet nursing is different then rehabilitation for sure.
And here we are 16 years later. Kuaotunu Bird Rescue Trust is a licenced small centre that takes in between 350 and 400 birds a year.
Photo: Hand Feeding a Silvereye/ Tauhou
- What is the most rewarding part of the work for you?
This job can be challenging at times, but the tough experiences are usually outweighed by the rewarding moments. Seeing endangered species up close is particularly exciting and for our volunteers as well.
Releases are particularly special. The sight of wings flapping into the distances can be very impressive.
- Hardest thing you have had to do or learn?
It is obvious that it's hard to know when to end suffering. But also having that option is the kindest thing.
Photo: Annemieke holding a little Ruru/Morepork
- If you were to go back and tell your past self something, what would it be?
Give it all, follow your heart.
- What are some of the misconceptions/challenges that face this industry?
Although we are called ""Kuaotunu Bird Rescue", we actually don't go out and rescue birds ourselves. The challenge we face in the Coromandel area is, as well as from being the only rehab centre on the peninsula, is getting the birds to us. There is no SPCA in Coromandel, so we rely on the public and DOC to help us transport birds. We often give advice to the public on how to safely capture a bird and call on volunteer drivers to bring them here. Some rescuers drive an hour and a half to find out the bird has passed away on the way, or has to be euthanized on arrival.
Other challenges are the lack of funding and time off. Luckily we have a great team of people now and I would not know what to do without them.
Photo: Tauhou/Silvereye, Takapu/Gannet and Ruru/Morepork
- Would you like to add anything else?
My husband is my biggest supporter, nothing is too much for him. His building and creating skills have made KBRT into what it is today.
KBRT is well supported by the community but we also give back. I love talking to community groups about our work and bringing awareness of how to look after our featherly friends and their environment. Our local Steiner Kindy kids visit on a regular basis and are allowed to feed some non natives in our care. I also love working with our Local school students who come and help in summer or during school as part of their science studies. Caring for our native birds in the Coromandel has to start young. Education is my passion.
If you would like to learn a little more about Kuaotunu bird rescue, check out their site here
If you are interested in being interviewed for our monthly bird rehabilitation segment, feel free to get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org