© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

Lockdown brings new challenges for wildlife care

Luisa Osborne
Injured morepork.
An injured morepork stands on its fractured leg.   Pauline Howard

Despite an observed reprieve from humans, wildlife are suffering more severe injuries while volunteer carers are in need of funding.

Fewer birds are being dropped off at the South Island Wildlife Hospital, but hawks are arriving with far worse injuries than usual.

Volunteer vet Pauline Howard said the hawks that were turning up often had with injuries so severe they had to be euthanised. She believed people were driving faster than usual during the Covid-19 lockdown, hence the severity of the injuries.

Howard urged people to be vigilant about protecting wildlife, especially as the end of lockdown was looming. Keeping an eye on "wild pets" was crucial as they presented a serious threat to native wildlife, she said.

The not-for-profit hospital would be fundraising as soon as possible as lockdown conditions eased. For now, "We're making the best of what we have," Howard said.

Kaikoura Wildlife Rescue volunteer Sabrina Luecht said the lockdown had been good overall for wildlife, but difficult in terms of getting medical, food and cleaning supplies.

She said dealing with the "crash landing" Hutton's shearwater had been difficult because of the lockdown restrictions.

The medium-sized ocean-going seabird has its fledgling period in March and April, during which time the juvenile shearwaters make their maiden sea voyage.

Luecht said the artificial lighting around Kaikoura disorientated the nocturnal seabirds, resulting in crash landings and rescues.

At its peak, 81 birds were rescued in one night.

The economic impacts of the lockdown meant fewer people were donating to charities, Luecht said. 

She said animal care had to continue regardless of the circumstances.