HELEN VAN BERKEL

You might think your workplace is a zoo - but for Breeze Buchanan, it really is.

While everyone else is at the beach and enjoying the sunshine, Auckland Zoo staff have to show up for work over summer to make sure their hairy, furry, slithering and scampering charges are fed, watered and healthy.

Zoo vet nurse Breeze Buchanan says her lifelong love of animals come from her Department of Conversation staff parents and her childhood growing up on the Thames coast.

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She has worked fulltime at the zoo's vet hospital since 2016.

"[I get to] do the two things I absolutely love – nursing animals and being involved in conservation work. My job varies hugely from day to day, part of the reason I love it so much.

"Being able to develop a bond with my patients and see them regularly around the zoo is a very incredible aspect of my job."

Buchanan studied veterinary nursing at Massey University and last year gained a Certificate in Animal Management (Captive Wild Animals).

On any given work day she may come into contact with any one of the zoo's 135 species - more than 1400 animals - helping with clinical and surgical procedures, anaesthetising creatures for health checks, taking blood samples or radiographs, post-operative care or dental procedures – even physiotherapy.

"In a recent week we stitched up a lace monitor that had a laceration, anaesthetised a serval for a health check and, with the help of an external dentist, carried out dental procedures on some of our cotton-top tamarins.

"That same week a sick green sea turtle found in Northland was flown down to us by the Department of Conservation, requiring blood samples, radiographs and a special rehabilitation tank set up.  We provide nursing care for these turtles until our vets deem them healthy enough to be sent to Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium for the remainder of their rehabilitation.

"That same week, part of my job was to perform physiotherapy on a very sweet lame wallaby, as well as look after emperor tamarins in quarantine following their arrival from overseas."

When she's not at the zoo, Buchanan helps do field work around New Zealand, such as going to Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf to take blood samples and perform health checks on critically endangered takahē.

"No day is ever mundane," Buchanan says.

"Working with such a dedicated team of zoo keepers and veterinary staff, where everyone is so devoted to not only the welfare of their animals and doing everything in their power to give them the best life possible, but also seeing first-hand everyone pulling together to contribute to conservation projects in New Zealand and around the world has been awe-inspiring."

As to which animal is her favourite, Buchanan struggles to answer: "That changes from week to week depending on what animals we are looking after. Little penguins were a firm favourite last year when we were hand-raising an orphaned little penguin that was brought to us at just 10 days old after its parents were suspected to have been attacked by dogs.  Oh, and the red panda and elephants are right up there too."

Breeze Buchanan looks after a ruru. Photo / Jane Healy
Breeze Buchanan looks after a ruru. Photo / Jane Healy

Auckland Zoo supplies veterinary services to the Department of Conservation's Kākāpō Recovery Programme and kākāpō are another of Buchanan's favourites.

"They can be so intelligent and cheeky."

The personality-loaded native parrot also brings its own challenges: "I was recently sprayed in the face with kākāpō food while I was holding it to be tube-fed and had to stay as still as possible while the remainder was given to the kākāpō - all the while the food was dripping down my face."

Indeed, looking after our native birds is part of the job this Kiwi holds close to her heart: "A very special moment for me was being involved in health checks on kiwi that were taken from the wild as eggs and seeing them released as young chicks back on to the Coromandel. This is where I grew up and went on kiwi surveys as a child."

I'm the person who ...

Monday: Makes fireworks

Yesterday: Helps people bungee jump
Today: Looks after the animals at the zoo

Tomorrow: Rings the church bells

Friday: Maintains the outside of the Sky Tower

Saturday: Police via jet ski

Sunday: Destroys your wrecked car

- yudu.co.nz