The Wellington Zoo veterinary team were able to release a nationally endangered Tawaki (Fiordland Crested Penguin) back into its wild West Coast habitat, after successful treatment at The Nest Te Kōhanga.

Tawaki Release NEWS

Arriving in September, the female Tawaki came to Wellington Zoo with an infected wound from a predator bite, but recovered well after receiving treatment from the expert veterinary team in The Nest Te Kōhanga.

“This Tawaki has responded really well to treatment during its stay at The Nest Te Kōhanga,” said Dr Lisa Argilla, Veterinary Sciences Manager. “We cleaned and stitched up the wound, which due to the infection and pain meant she was unable to swim and hunt in the wild. After treatment, she has steadily gained weight, been eating well, and displayed excellent physical fitness and waterproofing after spending time in the salt water pool.”

The bird flew south on Monday along with Wellington Zoo Vet Nurse Angelina Martelli, who provided care along the journey. The Tawaki was released in the evening near the site it had been found in Hokitika, with support from Department of Conservation and local rehabilitation volunteers who had found and cared for the Tawaki initially.

“This Tawaki was found in need of the specialist veterinary treatment and pre-release care that the team at Wellington Zoo is able to provide,” said Antje Wahlberg, Department of Conservation Ranger. “We’re delighted to help this endangered bird, whose story helps people connect to Tawaki, and support conservation work as a result.”

“Caring for these precious endemic birds is a special opportunity, and a great example of the collaborative nature of conservation agencies,” said Dr Argilla. “Wellington Zoo has strong relationships with DOC and the local rehabilitation volunteers as well as with the West Coast Penguin Trust, which highlights the importance of conservation organisations working together to save animals in the wild.”

About Tawaki (Fiordland Crested Penguins)

Tawaki are endemic to New Zealand and are one of our rarest mainland penguins.

They are monogamous and often mate for life.

Wild populations are threatened by fisheries bycatch, introduced predators and human disturbance during nesting season. Locals can help by keeping dogs away from colonies and keeping a respectful distance from nesting sites. For more information, visit