It’s World Veterinary Day – a special day where we can celebrate the vets and vet nurses making a world of difference to the health of animals and the environment.

At Auckland Zoo, we’re lucky to have a dedicated vet team of 10 (4 veterinarians, 4 vet nurses, a vet nurse assistant and a vet records assistant) that help to care for our zoo whānau, as well as provide supportive care and treatment for wild patients from all over Aotearoa. So far this year our team has helped to treat native bird species from the wild such as bittern, ruru (morepork), kākā, tara iti (fairy tern), takahē and kākāpo, as well as sea turtle patients that have washed up ill or injured on New Zealand’s beaches.

The theme for #WVDA2021 is the ‘veterinarian response to the Covid-19 crisis’, detailing the ways veterinarians have had to quickly evolve and adapt in response to the global pandemic. As our senior vet Dr An Pas explains, Auckland Zoo was already in good standing from the outset as many of the precautions that are needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were already in place, such as stringent hand hygiene measures.

Following the ‘One Health’ approach to conservation medicine, our zoo vet team work on the premise that animal, human and environmental health are all interconnected. While the Western viewpoint often sees human health set apart from our wider environment, our vets believe that taking care of animals and nature, cannot be separated from human health and wellbeing. Covid-19 is an example of what can happen if we don’t respect this interconnectedness.

From initial reports from the scientific community, our vets were aware we needed to be extra vigilant when caring for our primate and carnivore species, due to their greater risk of contracting Covid-19 from humans. Whether the zoo was closed or open to visitors, our animal care and conservation ‘essential workers’ had strict protocols to follow, that included mask and glove use when working with these species. Each department was divided into smaller teams which meant that, in the unfortunate event that one of the teams was affected by Covid-19, the unaffected team could continue the much-needed care of our animals.


Come take a tour of Auckland Zoo's Vet Hospital!

We follow senior veterinary manager Dr James Chatterton on a tour of Auckland Zoo's Vet Hospital where the vet team treat patients from the zoo and the wild.

During the initial stages of the pandemic, our vet teams biggest challenge was being able to source enough masks for our animal care teams because of the global shortage at that time. Thankfully our amazing volunteers stepped in, creating cloth masks that were able to be easily washed and sterilized for re-use again and again.

Another pressing issue was being able to return wild patients back to their homes. Our vet team had been caring for several wild kiwi that were affected by drought conditions over the Summer period of 2019/20. When the ground becomes very dry due to a lack of rainfall, kiwi are unable to penetrate the ground with their beaks which makes gathering their insect kai incredibly difficult. While the adults are usually able to fare okay, the juveniles can become very malnourished and can eventually die. With the help of our conservation partners at DOC and at Regional Parks we were able to care for several kiwi from Motuora Island and Tāwharanui Regional Park, and the last of our kiwi patients were able to be returned to the wild in full health, just prior to travel restrictions coming into play in New Zealand on 25 March 2020.

We’d love for you to visit our Vet Hospital viewing gallery these School Holidays, located inside our Zoo grounds, so you can learn more about the incredible work for wildlife you help to support every time you visit Auckland Zoo.