The Wildbase Recovery Centre in Palmerston North is unique in New Zealand, tasked with caring for some of our most endangered species. And unlike other wildlife centres, it's a good sign when its enclosures are empty, because that means the wildlife has been released back into its natural habitat.

"What we are is actually a rehabilitation facility for the Wildbase Hospital," centre manager Chris Smith said.

"They get fixed up there and then they end up down with us.

"We do rehab on them to make sure that they're fit and good to go, and then we release them as close to where they were found in the wild, in their natural environment."


Special enclosures at the centre allow the public to get up close with species they may never see in the wild. As well as recuperating wildlife, the centre has some permanent residents, including three adult tuatara and two babies.

The centre also has a breeding programme for whio (blue duck) and pāteke (brown teal). Although populations of these birds are small, there is a significant difference in areas where pests are actively controlled.

Smith said getting rid of pests is a cause everyone can help with.

"Helping out with trapping in the community or even in the backyard, anything from mice to rats, anything like that, will help out massively. If you just jump on the internet and look at Predator-free 2050," he said.

"That's a really good resource to jump on to find out what you can do."

Smith said simple awareness also plays an important role in protecting endangered bird species.

"A lot of people don't realise but little penguins will be turning up on Himatangi Beach and Whanganui as well. The penguins' feathers are essentially like a wet suit or a dry suit, the second that they've got a hole in it they're no longer waterproof.

"Penguins have got a really strong smell as well so that is quite enticing for a dog, and they look like something nice to shake around so it takes the dog two seconds and it'll run back to you and you wouldn't even know that it did really serious damage.


"You can get a long lead for your dog and walk them on a nice long rope and that will potentially save a penguin's life."

A visit to the Wildbase Recovery Centre is free, with volunteers on hand to talk about the animals.

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