ROSS GIBLIN and CAMERON BURNELL/Dominion Post
Wellington Zoo vet nurse Sarah van Herpt gets up close and personal to Fiordland crested penguins and a kea.
Physiotherapy is not an easy thing to get recovering animals at Wellington Zoo's Nest hospital to undertake. So vet nurse Sarah van Herpt has to be creative.
The Nest nurses hundreds of native birds brought in with illnesses and injuries every year. The small enclosures that allow them to heal also mean when they have recovered, many are out-of-shape and unstimulated - and like many of their human counterparts, will not do prescribed physio exercises without some form of reward.
Unfit birds will choose to walk rather than fly, so zoo staff will position their favourite treats so they can only reach them by giving their wings some much-needed exercise, van Herpt said.
For parrots like kea and kaka, keeping their brains stimulated is as important as giving their muscles a work-out.
"We do things like hiding their food, in things like woven flax baskets and cardboard boxes," she said. "We tailor it to the individual birds. We just released two kaka, and they really liked the enrichment using bamboo shoots, stuffing it with paper or drilling holes in it and putting seeds in so they have to roll it around."
Van Herpt presented her tips and experiences at an international conference zoo and wildlife organisations in Beijing last month.