Wildlife Conference May 2019


10th-12th May 2019, Christchurch


WReNNZ is New Zealand's national wildlife network, open to everyone interested in New Zealand wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and release. Annually WReNNZ provide quality wildlife education focused on best practice rehabilitation, biennially hosting a national wildlife conference.

In 2019 WReNNZ Wildlife Conference will be held 10th-12th May in Christchurch at The Antarctic Centre.

Registration starts at 8.30am on Friday 10th May and the conference will conclude at 3.30pm on Sunday 12th May.

WReNNZ AGM will be held first on Sunday morning 12th May, all attendees are welcome to attend and voting is open to WReNNZ members only. After the AGM conference sessions will recommence at 11am.


Agenda Overview

3 Days / 15 Speakers

Rehabilitation Presentations 10th, 11th May and 12th May

  • Compassion Fatigue (2 sessions)

  • Field work with Kea

  • Kea Conservation

  • Integrating Rehabilitation and Conservation

  • Different Foods for Different Birds

  • Penguin Rehabilitation Procedures

  • Avian Malaria in Yellow-eyed Penguins

  • Kereru Rearing

  • Rearing a Nestling Little Owl

  • Rearing Non-Native Chicks

  • Setting up NZ Raptor Trust

Workshop (Friday afternoon)

  • First aid for injured birds

  • Cropping

  • Bandaging

  • Basic Hygiene

  • Post Mortem (to observe)

Wildlife Excursion (Saturday afternoon)

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve Dinner (Saturday evening)

  • Guest speaker - renowned Bird Photographer Steve Attwood

  • Dinner is optional and is not included in the conference fee, the approx. cost for dinner will be $30 per person + drinks

AGM Sunday 12th May

  • Optional AM session for all delegates, voting open for WReNNZ members only



For those travelling to Christchurch for the conference there is an extensive range of places to stay, with many options conveniently located near both the airport and the venue.

To see a wide variety of accommodation choices visit AirBnB, Booking.com, Expedia or use the button link below to review Google results. For additional budget options visit Jucy Snooze.



Tickets & Member Discounts

Early bird ticket prices are available until 10th April 2019, or until all tickets are sold.


WReNNZ members receive access to discounted rates.

For the 3 day conference ticket pricing is:

  • Early Bird Non-Members $150 (save 17%)

  • Early Bird Members $90 (save 25%)


After 10th April if tickets are still available the following prices will apply:


  • Non-Members $180

  • Members $120

If you would like ongoing access to discounted wildlife training rates and  you are not yet a WReNNZ member, please join today before buying your conference tickets.


Our Speakers & Topics

Compassion Fatigue - Bridey White

Professions involving animals attract people with diverse backgrounds and skills. Work is often under intense conditions with animal mortality and euthanasia a reality. A natural consequence is that experienced professionals could encounter burnout or compassion fatigue. Bridey will be discussing multidisciplinary techniques that can be used to enhance resilience for animal care professionals or practitioners.

Integrating Rehabilitation & Conservation - Dr Janelle Ward

Conservation Scientists and Wildlife Rehabilitators do not always see eye to eye. Conservation agencies or individual scientists may see wildlife rehabilitation as beneficial in terms of community involvement, providing a wildlife rescue service and to reduce animal welfare concerns, but may not regard individual wildlife rehabilitation as beneficial to species conservation. However, wildlife rehabilitation agencies and individuals often think of themselves as actively contributing to conservation. Indeed, WReNNZ’ tagline is “Conservation by restoring back to health”.


In this presentation, case studies will be presented of how wild bird rehabilitation can contribute to, versus threaten species management programmes. Additionally, anonymous data from a subset of NZ wildlife rehabilitators annual reports will be presented. The dataset shows that many NZ rehabilitators are regularly rehabilitating threatened species. A few rehabilitators have very high success rates for rehabilitation, with a high proportion of endemic threatened species being released back into the wild that may contribute to species recovery.


Tips will be given about how to actively contribute to conservation in your region. Ideas include: working closely with the regional DOC biodiversity staff to assess suitable areas for release; becoming proficient or restricting rehabilitation efforts to certain species or groups of birds; and directing conservation efforts to support recovery and restoration efforts in your community. Reducing disease risk to native species, by separating natives from non-natives or specialising in native species is also briefly discussed.

Opening Wildlife Hospital Dunedin - Angelina Martelli CVN

The Wildlife Hospital Dunedin is dedicated to treating Native species and opened in January 2018 after it was identified that there was a need for a wildlife veterinarian and wildlife veterinary hospital based in Otago. The drastic increase in predation injuries and disease afflicting mainland yellow-eyed penguins since 2013/14 combined with severe population declines on an annual basis were the catalyst for the Wildlife Hospital project team to put their heads together to develop a plan.


Since opening, the Wildlife Hospital has admitted more than 630 native patients. The most common species we see are, unsurprisingly, yellow-eyed penguins of which more than 190 have received veterinary care. We have also provided care for many crested penguins (Fiordland, Snares, Erect and a Royal) 40 of which have received veterinary as well as kereru with more than 95 treated since we opened our doors. More than 45 different native species have received veterinary care including Royal Albatross, Kakapo, Takahe, Haast Tokoeka, Rowi Kiwi, Greater spotted kiwi, Rakiura Tokoeka, South Island Kaka, Kea, NZ sealion, NZ falcon and Kaki to name a few. More than ½ of our patients are classified as nationally vulnerable with 1/3 having a nationally endangered or nationally critical classification.


We work closely with a number of rehabilitation organisations including Project kereru, Penguin Place, Dunedin Botanic Gardens and Oxford Bird rescue. Our success rate for treating, rehabilitating and releasing our patients is 76.4%. We have cared for just over 10% of the mainland population of yellow-eyed penguins with a success rate of 86%. This is a significant contribution towards saving these endangered penguins, an achievement we are very proud of.

Kea Conservation - Dr Laura Young

Kea (Nestor notabilis) are a nationally endangered, beautiful parrot that live in the forests and mountains of the South Island. The most recent population estimate is between 3000 and 7000 and they are thought to be in decline, especially in the eastern ranges. Kea face many threats including predation (stoats, feral cats, possums), lead poisoning, conflict with humans and our things, including vehicles, electrocution and human foods, and because of their innate neophilic tendencies - they're sometimes unfortunately killed by traps and 1080 poisons.


The Kea Conservation Trust aims to assist in conservation of wild kea in their natural habitat through:

(1) establishing positive working relationships with associated conservation groups/individuals;

(2) raising of funds to allow research on kea issues;

(3) provision of an easily accessible information resource on kea.

Currently the KCT is working hard on the issue of lead poisoning in kea. In this talk, Laura will present information on where the Trust is up to with the removal of lead in kea and their habitat project. 

The Trust aims to decrease the threat of lead to kea through initiation of a 5 step process:

i) testing blood lead levels in kea throughout their south island range,

ii) facilitating community treatment of affected kea,

iii) identifying sources of lead in the environment and facilitating their removal,

iv) replacing lead products with nontoxic alternatives as funding allows and

v) raising of funds and support to support community efforts.

Managing Avian Malaria for Yellow-eyed Penguins

- Rosalie Goldsworthy

15 months ago Avian Malaria was identified as the cause of death of 14 endangered Yellow-eyed penguins at Penguin Rescue. To manage this threat in a sustainable way, they had to step up and upgrade their facilities and up-skill their team. Rosalie's presentation outlines their journey, where they have got to so far and next steps.

Field Work with Kea & Conservation Dog Ajax - Corey Mosen

Together, Corey and Ajax travel through the steep high country throughout the South Island searching out kea nests. Their part in the kea conservation effort is essential and both Ajax and Corey are an inseparable duo. 

Their heart-warming yarns include how Ajax was trained to be one of the very few kea detection dogs in the world and tells of his various escapades in the unpredictable wilds of the steep back-country, including flying in helicopters, working in blizzards, heavy rain and dense fog, escaping from angry wasps and sleeping out in the bitter cold. 

The strong connection between Ajax and Corey has proved vital to their survival and the important work that they do. Ajax is slowing down now and soon his high-country days will be over.


Ajax and his handler Corey, who traverse remote parts of the South Island tracking kea nests, will share some of their adventures in the mountains as well as what it takes to work in the field of kea research. Corey will discuss some of the kea projects that are currently underway around the south island and some of the emerging technologies that are helping to make kea research easier and more efficient.

Rehabilitation of Natives in the Public Eye - Tracie Poole

Wildbase of Massey University is based in Palmerston North and is part of the veterinary teaching hospital. There are five facets of Wildbase which include pathology, Research, Oil spill response, Hospital and the newly completed Recovery Centre. The Central Energy Trust Wildbase recovery centre is a partnership and co-managed by Massey University’s Vet School and the Palmerston north City Council.

The Centre is a space for the rehabilitation of native species that have been treated at Wildbase Hospital or other establishments. It is also home to resident pairs of pateke and whio, which are part of the conservation breed-for-release program. The Centre has 14 large aviaries, 5 of which are on display for the public to view. These 5 aviaries are designed to allow people to view the birds in their rehabilitation state while learning about them from visitor guides and hosts and the various media surrounding the aviaries. The viewing panels and environment have been designed to protect the animals from viewing the public, creating a unique space for wild animals to rehabilitate while hopefully endearing the public to the conservation plight most of our New Zealand species face.

Wildbase hospital admits around 400 animals a year which includes around 50 different species. The aviaries have been designed specifically to rehabilitate recovering animals but with enough flexibility to use spaces for different needs. The aviaries include 2 large raptor aviaries, 3 circular flight, 2 ground dweller aviaries that are parrot proof also, 3 pool aviaries with beaches and 4 runs. There is CCTV set up in 4 of the aviaries which allows staff to remotely monitor behaviour without interference and record observations for the Wildbase team to assess.


This is an exciting project in many senses and staff are particularly excited the possibilities for future research, post release monitoring and feedback of rehabilitating our own hospital patients. We also look forward to working more closely with the rehabilitators around the country to expand our knowledge and share our own experiences.

Raising Non-Native Chicks - Dr Phillipa Suckling

Hand raising birds is a challenging but ultimately rewarding endeavour.  In this talk Phillipa will speak about the differences between raising some of the common altricial and precocial non-native birds, what diets to use and some common medical issues that may occur.

Kereru Raising - Dr Susan Shannon

Susan is a companion animal veterinarian with over 30 years experience. In 2009 & 2010 she volunteered to help translocate some Tui from Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds to Banks Peninsula which was a tremendous experience, from that Susan became involved in monitoring the unfortunately shrinking population of Hoiho / Yellow Eyed Penguin on Banks Peninsula & the rehabilitation of injured native birds.


At the conference Susan will be sharing her experience rehabilitating Kereru. She will discuss threats, initial assessment on presentation & rehabilitative care through to release. Susan will provide a feeding sheet (courtesy of The Nest, Wellington). The take home message is how important it is to get all injured Kereru seen by a veterinarian, radiographed & medicated appropriately for pain.


Susan thinks it is important as rehabilitators that we educate the public, (who clearly care enough to bring the birds into us), with regard to preventing injuries happening again, i.e.  some cat management options & window decoy methods.

Rearing a Nestling Little Owl, a Photographic Journey

- Karen Talbot

Karen has a medical background, is a long-term volunteer at South Island Wildlife Hospital and keen amateur photographer. Her short light-hearted talk is a photographic journey of a Little German Owl she met when he was rescued out of a woodpile in early January this year. He was a few days old, and very near death. Needing constant feeding and care Karen started documenting his growth with her phone to ensure he wasn't stressed. Karen posted the images on Facebook and people were fascinated in his growth. These owls are South Island only, and love the open flatlands of Canterbury.

Different Food for Different Birds - Dr Pauline Howard BVSc

Pauline is a small animal veterinarian at the Hornby Veterinary Centre in Christchurch, with a keen interest in wildlife. With an enthusiastic, capable group of volunteers, Pauline helps run the South Island Wildlife Hospital. They have a small hospital in the carpark of Willowbank Wildlife reserve.  South Island Wildlife Hospital offers support to local wildlife, veterinarians, SPCA, rehabbers and DOC. They have enjoyed treating a wild range of birds – from juvenile shags with parasite problems, penguins and Harrier hawks to kea with lead poisoning. Pauline's talk is a summary of what to feed  and how to feed birds on arrival when they need assist feeding.

Bird Photography - Steve Attwood

Guest Speaker Saturday Evening 11th May

Penguin Rehabilitation Procedures - Thomas Stracke

Thomas has a masters degree in biology (study on penguin parasites) and works as an Intensive Care Nurse in Christchurch Public Hospital. Thomas will be speaking about penguin rehabilitation procedures at Christchurch Penguin Rehabilitation. Penguin Rehabilitation 101 will be a look at ways of improving the outcome of penguins admitted and highlighting the improvements they made over the last 10 years. Thomas will share some useful tips to make life easier when it comes to the daily logistics and working towards developing a protocol regarding the rehabilitation of starving and dehydrated penguins.

Setting Up NZ Raptor Trust - Ron Lindsay

Ron's involvement with the New Zealand Raptor Trust started with a phone call from Vaughan Skea asking if he would be interested in being part of an organisation rescuing and rehabilitating native raptors. Ron responded positively and was soon part of the trust board of the new organisation. Ron's current responsibilities are Secretary, PR and Education.


The Trust's journey thus far has had moments of excitement, satisfaction and frustration and Ron will be sharing some of those elements. Starting from keeping birds in small mews and garages to developing a site which will eventually encompass facilities for hospitalisation, rehabilitation, education and advocacy for native raptors.

What's Happening at Issac's - Josh Forrest

Abstract coming soon


May 12 - All welcome to attend and only members can vote


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For more information about WReNNZ, visit WRENNZ.ORG.NZ.