Wildbase Hospital is an animal hospital, based at Massey University in Palmerston North. It specialises in the treatment of native New Zealand animals and birds. It’s also a training hospital for veterinarians, nurses and wildlife technicians. A terrific kids’ book by Janet Hunt has recently been published about the work done there: How to Mend a Kea and other fabulous fix-it tales from Wildbase Hospital.
It’s a beautifully designed book, chock full of interesting information and appealing illustrations, and written in a clear, engaging style. That’s ‘Kea: Patient #78129’ on the cover, wrapped in a towel ready for his daily weigh-in. As Hunt explains, the patients are identified by their species and a number:
The Wildbase team tries very hard not to tame patients. It’s not good for the birds to rely on people because sooner or later they will be free, living healthy independent lives in the wild. They are not humans and that’s why they (mostly) don’t have names.”
The book is divided into three sections. The first describes Wildbase and how it is run. It includes a description of the professional staff roles, and what is required to qualify as a vet or wildlife technician.
The second section is a detailed case history of ‘Kea: Patient #78129’, who arrived at Wildbase from Lake Manapouri in a dreadful state, thin and raggedy-looking with a badly injured left leg. The diagnostic process and the treatment protocol are clearly described. Kea’s leg deformity, it transpires, is not a new injury. Surgery is required to break the bone and reset it correctly. All this is clearly described, using technical terms where appropriate. Illustrations include pre- and post-op x-rays. The (mainly) young readers of this book will relish being treated so intelligently.
The final section, “Washing, cleaning, breaking, mending, stitching & feeding”, includes 11 further case histories, following the care of (among others) kereru (New Zealand wood pigeon), takahē, kākā, hoiho (little blue penguin), tuatara and whio (blue or mountain duck).
If you know a child who is interested in wildlife, then you know a child who will absolutely love this book. Younger children will enjoy poring over the pictures and having the details explained to them, while older children (and adults too, I can confirm!) will have their sticky beaks in the text before you can say ‘medicine for mollymawks’.
Sue Wootton is co-editor of Corpus.
How to Mend a Kea + other fabulous fix-it tales from Wildbase Hospital by Janet Hunt is published by Massey University Press, 2017.