Dr. James Chatterton

All the way from Sheffield in Northern England, James brings a lot of talent and experience to his role as Manager of Veterinary Services at Auckland Zoo. After graduating in veterinary medicine at Edinburgh University, he worked with domestic species for eight years, followed by zoo and wildlife species for nine years, before joining Auckland Zoo five years ago. He loves providing veterinary care for such a large range of animals, and finds it extremely rewarding being directly involved in the conservation of endangered species. His most memorable zoo moment involved treating a male kākāpō with severe wing injuries in the Auckland Zoo Vet Hospital, releasing it back into the wild, and then coming across two of his offspring when undertaking conservation fieldwork in the wild.

“In New Zealand, we are lucky to live in a society that already values wild animals and their natural environment, however the environment is under increasing pressure. We can all easily make small changes to our own lives, and the combined effect of these millions of small changes will be a huge positive step forward for our environment.”

Dr. Richard Jakob-Hoff

Richard was born in Switzerland, grew up in England and started working as a keeper at just the age of 16. Richard’s passion for conservation, science and research led him to become a qualified vet in 1981, and seven years later he emigrated to New Zealand to work at Auckland Zoo. The Zoo is lucky to have a man as passionate and experienced as Richard, who, for six years was our Senior Curator, before becoming Senior Vet for 17-years during which he led the development of the NZCCM. For the next five years he managed the Zoo’s Conservation Science and Research department, before turning his focus to convene the Australasian branch of the Conservation Planning Specialist Group/CPSG (www.cpsg.org) which is hosted by Auckland Zoo. This global organisation extends the Zoo’s reach in achieving its mission of bringing people together to create a future for wildlife. The things he loves most about the various roles he’s had at the Zoo is the opportunities they’ve given him to contribute to the conservation of wildlife and the welfare of Auckland Zoo’s animals.

Richard retired at the end of 2020 but continues his affiliation with the Zoo through his on-going work for the CPSG. When asked for words of wisdom, Richard said “I can’t better Mahatma Ghandi’s advice ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.”

Dr. An Pas

Originally from Belgium, “the land of chocolate and smurfs” as An describes it, she began her career working with domestic animals, but a desire to see the world and work with wildlife led to 18-years working on projects in Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East. An has now been with Auckland Zoo for five years and loves that there is so much more to learn and discover about the variety of species she now works with. She is unable to pick just one special moment in her career, but being able to use her skills to do things like: assist rescuing a chimp that spent years in isolation in Lebanon; releasing rescued monkeys back into a forest in Nigeria after years of rehabilitation; or contributing to research that may help save future species from extinction are all incredibly special to her.

“I wish we would all see the world as one, not as all separate entities that compete for the same space. If we believe that we are all connected, we show respect for all the surrounds us, ourselves, and each other, then we will find solutions for the many challenges the world faces.”

Dr. Melanie Leech

Melanie began her veterinary career in the Waikato with both farm animals and pets, as well as plenty of local wildlife. She has a Master of Veterinary Studies in Conservation Medicine, and loves the variety her role at Auckland Zoo provides – the diversity of animals she treats, the challenges, and the opportunity to work in the field. Spending time on Whenua Hou to do veterinary care and hand rearing of kākāpo chicks was a standout moment, and having the ability to make a real difference to a species.

“The world’s population is always growing and the planet has finite resources. Be aware of your daily impact on the environment. Teach this to children, and show them the wonderful wildlife of our planet.”

Dr. Kimberly Vinette Herrin

Originally from New York, Kimberly was a regular at Bronx Zoo as a child, and always fancied herself a bit of a ‘Dr Dolittle’. As she grew up and learnt about the issues facing our planet, Kimberly was motivated to use medicine as a tool for conservation. After gaining a Masters of Oceanography in Alaska and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) at Colorado State University, Kimberly has since delivered on her promise to advance wildlife conservation, with experience at Gladys Porter Zoo (Texas), Ocean Park (Hong Kong), and more recently spending 15 years at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo as an Associate Veterinarian. As a vet, she loves having the opportunity to be a jack of all trades, and the challenges presented by species that little is known about. Some of Kimberly’s memorable conservation moments include contributing to bringing Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles back from the brink of extinction, and assisting the Department of Conservation with sea lion anesthesias in New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic Islands.

“There's so many things people can do for conservation. No matter how small the effort is, everyone can make a difference and empower others to do the same, just by looking at their own ecological footprint and impact on the climate.”

Dr. Stefan Saverimuttu

Auckland Zoo’s latest Veterinary Resident, Stefan, first studied veterinary medicine at the University of Sydney, before gaining five years’ experience in mixed practice clinics from New South Wales to the Northern Territory. The drive has always spurred from a passion for conservation, and a love for animals – wild species in particular. When asked about a notable species he’s had the opportunity to work with, in true Aussie fashion, Stefan answers, “saltwater crocodiles”. Besides the exciting logistical challenges they present from a veterinary perspective, Stefan reminds us that as an animal a lot of people don’t have empathy for, they still feel pain and deserve the same opportunity for care. At Auckland Zoo, Stefan feels privileged to be part of an organisation that places conservation as top priority, recalling some of his favourite memories as his contributions to kiwi, takahē and kākāpō conservation, and his realisation of scale the first time he worked with a rhinoceros. Whilst completing his Doctorate of Veterinary Medical Science, Stefan is undertaking a research project attempting to leverage scientific data techniques in order to evaluate current wildlife health trends, which could have hugely positive implications for our native species.

“Sometimes, the best thing we can do for our native wildlife, is to simply leave them alone. If you think something looks sick – sea turtles, penguins, seals – call 0800 DOC HOT. Unless you’re specifically trained in that area, it’s very difficult to make a helpful decision, and sometimes our kindness and best intentions are misguided.”

Mikaylie Wilson

Originally from Australia, Mikaylie Wilson began her zoo veterinary nursing career 22 years ago at Taronga Zoo. With a wealth of experience under her belt, Mikaylie worked at multiple zoos, an aquarium and marine mammal rescue centres with seal pups and seal rehabilitation, before becoming our Clinical Coordinator nine years ago. Mikaylie loves the variety in her role, and being directly involved in the conservation of endangered species – especially her involvement in the kākāpō breeding season. Being on an amazing island, listening to adult males booming in the middle of the night, whilst walking across the island to perform a health check on a newly hatched kākāpō chick is a moment she describes as incredible, surreal and a career highlight.

“While we are fit and able, every small decision makes a difference to our future generations and wildlife. Say NO to as much plastic as you can! Every small step helps the environment, remember your children are watching and absorbing everything you do, so set the best example.”

Celine Campana

Celine Campana qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2000 and gained experience in small animal practice before discovering her true love – conservation work. After becoming involved with a Sea Turtle charity in Greece, Celine spent almost ten years working winters in the UK as a veterinary nurse, followed by summers working with endangered sea turtles on the beaches of Greece and Costa Rica. Conservation work became so important to Celine that she wanted to work in a major zoo, so spent six years in Paignton Zoo, and returned to New Zealand to begin at Auckland Zoo in 2017. Celine finds it rewarding to use her skills to contribute to conservation in New Zealand, and her memorable work moments include hand-raising Ohope, a starving little penguin chick that was brought into the Vet Hospital for treatment. Unable to be released, watching Ohope join the Zoo’s penguin colony was Celine’s favourite Zoo moment so far!

“You don’t have to be a veterinarian to make a positive impact, we can make the world a better place by changing our habits. Refuse plastic bags and straws, buy products with less packaging, don’t support unsustainable palm oil, and tell family and friends about the challenges faced by our natural world.”

Breeze Buchanan

Breeze was lucky enough to grow up on the beautiful Thames Coast where both her parents work in conservation, undoubtedly leading her to a career in Veterinary nursing and a drive to do her bit for conservation. Breeze has been with the Auckland Zoo team since 2014, previously gaining experience in general practices and the Animal Emergency Centre. Breeze loves being part of such a passionate and dedicated team that works together to make a difference in their patients’ lives. She feels privileged to have worked with endangered wildlife such as kiwi and takahē, and also finds nursing stranded sea turtles very rewarding. While difficult to choose just one out of so many special moments, a particularly special moment for Breeze was sending kākāpō back to the wild after months of intensive treatment for aspergillosis at Auckland Zoo. It was incredibly rewarding after the hard work of getting them back to health, to see them go home to hopefully further bolster the kākāpō population in years to come.

“Human activities are causing huge amounts of destruction to the environment, threatening not only our special animals but our own future as well. If everyone works together to do their bit for the environment it would go a long way towards saving our planet.”

Amy Ross

Amy joined Auckland Zoo in 2011, as a Veterinary Nurse, after gaining vast experience at SPCA Auckland and Unitec. When Amy is not busy looking after Auckland Zoo’s diverse range of animals, she spends her valuable time working on the New Zealand Veterinary Nursing Association Executive Committee and on the Executive Board of Companion Animals NZ. Amy loves ensuring that animals in her care have the best welfare standards and are provided with the best environment and enrichment for their needs. Amy’s most memorable moment at Auckland Zoo includes providing intensive care for turtles that have washed up stranded and then being able to see them re-released to the wild once they are strong enough.

“When we look at all of the environmental problems it can feel over-whelming and we can often think 'what can I do, I am only one person'. But if everyone was to make one positive change to our lifestyle at a time we can all make a huge difference. Purchase sustainable products, don’t buy single use plastics, re-use & recycle, and only buy what you will use - just a few examples of what you can do to help our wildlife”.

Claire Cameron

Already armed with the knowledge that she one day wanted to be a zoo keeper, Claire found her niche during her early working days, on expedition cruise ships visiting the sub-Antarctic islands and Antarctica, sparking a love for birds. After completing the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Management (Captive Wild Animals) she became a Bird Keeper at Auckland Zoo, relishing in the conservation components of this role working to save species like the kākāpō, whio, and kiwi. With memorable work moments including hearing kiwi squeak back at you from inside their egg pre-hatch, and being able to contribute to the 2019 kākāpō aspergillosis crisis, Claire has since found herself assisting in the Vet Hospital, now employed as the Vet Nurse Assistant, as she studies vet nursing part-time. Claire loves that every day is different and that she gets to make a contribution to protecting native species.

“It all starts in our own backyards. If you can, plant native species that produce fruit and flowers for our bees and birds. Where you can, do your bit to help with predator free 2050. In the words of the Lorax, Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. But if everyone does a little bit, it becomes a lot."