After passing his waterproofing test with flying colours, a nationally endangered Tawaki Fiordland Crested Penguin headed back to the wild after receiving care and treatment at Wellington Zoo.

Gari Louie Denny swimming

From left to right: Gari, Louie and Denny

The penguin, nicknamed Louie, was fit for release and was returned to the West Coast of the South Island last week.

Wellington Zoo is also treating three other Tawaki, who were found within days of each other along the same coastline. The penguins were originally found and cared for by the team at West Coast Penguin Trust and then flown to Wellington to receive further treatment at The Nest Te Kōhanga.

Louie and another juvenile called Denny have been treated for abdominal wounds, while another penguin named Wedgie is still receiving treatment on a flipper wound.

We’re not exactly sure what caused the wounds to the four Tawaki; however it is possible they were caused by predators, or other injuries.

Three of the four Tawaki are recovering exceptionally well and are expected to return to the wild within the next two weeks.

Wedgie and Denny will need to remain at The Nest Te Kōhanga until they regain their waterproofing.

The waterproofing assessment involves the birds swimming in our salt water pool for four to six hours a day under our team’s supervision. We then assess their feathers to monitor how waterproof they are. Their daily swims also help with their strength and fitness, so they have an easy transition back to the wild.

Meanwhile it is still early days for Alex, a penguin who came to the Zoo with an injured jaw. While the wound around his mouth is healing well, Alex’s beak started to scissor and cross over at the tip. Under anaesthetic, we placed an external ramp on Alex’s beak which acts like orthodontics to push the beak back in the right direction. Alex’s beak is still in the process of being corrected by the ramp, however the Vet Team are hopeful that Alex will make a speedy recovery if his beak can be fixed.

The outcome for the four Tawaki is positive at this stage and we really hope that we can release all four of them back to the wild. Returning sea birds back to the wild is an important part of what we do at The Nest Te Kōhanga as it contributes to the ongoing conservation efforts of nationally endangered species, like the Tawaki.

During this time of the year we see a lot of penguins coming through to The Nest Te Kōhanga. We ask that the community keeps their dogs on a lead while out along the coastline to help protect our native sea birds that may be nesting in the area.

Denny and Louie

Denny and Louie swimming in the salt water pool

Gari swimming in salt water pool

Gari swimming in the salt water pool