Wildbase is known nationally for its expertise in dealing with injured and sick native and endemic species – and internationally for its expertise in dealing with birds and marine mammals caught in oil spills. It is recognised as being in the world’s top four for oiled wildlife response capabilities and its staff led the wildlife response to last year’s Rena shipwreck in Bay of Plenty. It is also New Zealand’s leading research institute on wildlife disease.
The new Wildbase brand was launched at a function at the University’s Manawatu campus today, hosted by Professor Frazer Allan, the head of the University’s Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences.
Associate Professor Brett Gartrell, the centre director, was the first staff member of the centre when it began a decade ago. He said there is a growing demand for wildlife veterinary expertise as people recognise the absolute fragility of some of New Zealand’s native species because of their tiny populations. “In New Zealand, like nowhere else in the world, wildlife rehabilitation can make a difference to conservation.”
Special guests at the launch included Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor and Craig Shepherd from Wellington, one of several prominent New Zealanders who have agreed to be ambassadors for Wildbase. Others include Lady Raewyn Henry, wife of former All Blacks coach Graham, Manawatu Turbos rugby captain Nick Crosswell and Palmerston North business leaders David and Vicki Stewart (from Stewarts Electrical Supplies).
Mr Shepherd, who owns Harbour City Security, is chairman of the Wildlife Rehabilitators’ Network of New Zealand and runs a bird rehabilitation facility on his farm near Wellington. He was also part of the oiled wildlife response team in the aftermath of the Rena disaster, working closely with the Massey Wildbase staff, after training initially in avian first aid and then in oiled wildlife response. “The Rena oil spill was a really good example of what the wildlife ward has achieved,” he said.
Wildbase, as part of the institute, has a large base of international expertise in animal health and medicine to draw upon. It also has close links with the Department of Conservation and Maritime New Zealand. It plans to expand its hospital facilities in partnership with the Palmerston North City Council to build an extensive rehabilitation centre at the city’s Esplanade to allow greater interaction with the public and increase opportunities for greater public understanding of New Zealand’s unique wildlife.
Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey says Wildbase has a long history of contributing innovative responses to environmental issues and enhancing understanding of the wellbeing of New Zealand’s native species. “Massey has made a notable contribution to society through deploying staff and expertise in response to natural and man-made disasters in New Zealand and throughout the world,” he says. “I know the work of Wildbase staff here at Massey and in communities will continue to make a difference because of their unique academic and professional expertise.”
Shona Geary, communications manager for Shell New Zealand, a foundation sponsor of the centre, says the new brand is “absolutely appropriate and very attractive. It’s incredibly exciting to see the centre grow in the way it has because it performs such an important function in New Zealand. We’re certainly very proud to be associated with the staff and will continue to support them into the next phase.”
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