This week Taronga Wildlife Hospital was given the rare opportunity to release a Westland Petrel, Red listed by Birdlife international as a vulnerable species, back into the wild!
The breading female, who had been cared for by our veterinary team, was released five kilometres off the headlands of Sydney Harbour on a picture perfect summer’s day. Eager to make the most of her second chance at life, the petrel held her head up, sat atop of the water and within seconds was in flight, without a glance back at the nurses who had tended to her over the past few weeks .
This jet-black bird, was only the second Westland Petrel to be treated at Taronga Wildlife Hospital, the last finding its way to us in 2007.
The adult bird was reported on Christmas Eve to the Australian Seabird Rescue Association after being spotted off Port Kembla, clocking in at almost half her ideal body weight of 800-1.2 kilograms.
A common problem Westland Petrels face is finding enough food to eat on a daily basis. When their food supply is compromised, they become too weak to continue to hunt for fish and carry out their natural ability of preening their feathers to make them waterproof. Like many of us over the holiday season, the petrel was fattened up on three daily meals of seafood, facilitating weight gain and the energy to properly take care of itself. After some rest and food, Taronga Wildlife Hospital gave the rare bird a clean bill of health to be sent on its way.
Westland Petrels are a native deep sea species to New Zealand that only breeds on an 8 kilometres beach on the South Island of New Zealand. They are threatened by induced predators, particularly the feral cat and fisheries.
Being an adult breeding female, we were ecstatic to be able to get her back out into the wild.
Taronga Zoo has an excellent record of rehabilitating sea birds for release back into the wild, helping to maintain healthy populations. Releasing the breeding female will hopefully contribute to boosting the population numbers of these beautiful birds to ensure their long term survival.