Wildbase Recovery a Palmy taonga

Judith Lacy Opinion






If you were a bird how would you use your newfound ability to fly? Would you swoop in the face of anyone about to release balloons to float goodness knows where telling them to stop? Perhaps you’d create the hashtag #notforcuzzies as you don’t want your cousins’ guts filling up with pieces of balloons. Would you flap your wings in gratitude to Palmerston North Rotarians Scott Bruce and Rodney Wong and everyone else involved in establishing Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery? The rehabilitation centre for native wildlife in Victoria Esplanade opened more than three years ago. The centre provides shelter and care for wildlife after treatment at Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital. Embarrassingly, I visited for the first time on Saturday. Geoff, Jane and Anthony gave me such a friendly welcome, were patient with me when I couldn’t spot wildlife or even a fluorescent box housing the two juvenile tuatara, and when numbers allowed explained more to me about the residents. The recovery aviaries are on the left-hand side of the centre, with a blackboard telling you who is occupying them the day you visit. On Saturday, a kereru¯ was in the raptor aviary, a ko¯ tare (kingfisher) in the circular flight aviary, and in the ground-dwelling aviary a ka¯ ka. There were no patients in the shore and wetland aviary but you could watch a video of former patients in the rehab pools. Cuteness overload. The two pa¯ take (brown teal duck) in the breeding aviary were out of view when I visited but had done their bit for visitors in the morning. The walk-through aviary, home to the centre’s permanent residents, is undoubtedly the highlight. You are guaranteed to see wildlife and you can get quite close to them. Did you know a ka¯ka¯ can peel a grape perfectly with its beak? Or that tu¯¯ı have two voice boxes? I love the birdhouse voting system — put a token in one house for awesome or in the other for could do better. The map just inside the entrance was too low for me to read. Perhaps it is designed for children’s eyes. Instead, take a pamphlet to guide you. Despite Wildbase’s small size, there is much to take in and as patients are admitted and discharged, it’s well worth a repeat visit. And it’s free. The contribution of Scott and Rodney is acknowledged with a plaque that says without their passion and dedication the centre would never have happened. I don’t know Scott but I do know Rodney and he is a true Palmerston North taonga, just like Wildbase Recovery. Father and son George and Peter Russell’s contribution is also recognised; between them they contributed more than 73 years caring for Esplanade aviaries. If I was a bird, I would run bird aversion programmes for our feline friends. And I would not poo on the windows of nice people, like this jotter.