By DAVID HILL, PHOTOS: SABRINA LUECHT
Sabrina Luecht believes every bird matters. The Kaikoura woman opened Kaikoura Wildlife Rescue at her home in Mill Rd in September and has since helped more than 100 injured or sick native seabirds.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of birds.
“It’s been a really bad summer for birds struggling with starvation due to the La Nina conditions, which affects prey availability and the ocean conditions.”
Global warming has also increased the frequency of toxic algae blooms, which produce neurotoxins. Zooplankton such as krill feed on these algae, which is the main diet of seabirds such as gulls.
Many sick birds therefore died this season or were euthanised.
She has been working closely with VetCare Kaikoura and wildlife vets elsewhere.
Little blue penguins, Hutton’s shearwaters, petrels, gulls, and shags have been the predominant patients cared for by Sabrina to date.
“Some days I was receiving four birds a day, which is a lot for one person.”.
Buying medical supplies and feeding the birds is expensive, with one shag costing $40 a day to feed.
To date, Kaikoura Wildlife Rescue has been largely self-funded, but Sabrina is now applying for charitable status and is seeking sponsorship.
She has a Facebook page and a Givealittle page seeking donations.
Her partner, sculptor Ben Foster, kindly renovated an initial wildlife room and outdoor enclosure, while a second wildlife room is also planned.
Eventually, with funding, there are also plans for a a large purpose-built flight aviary for long-term rehab patients.
Sabrina, who is in her 30s, is originally from Germany, but studied Zoology at the University of Canterbury, working in New Zealand and internationally.
She also has a rare neurological autoimmune disease which requires blood transfusions. Her medical condition means she is no longer able to work fulltime, climb mountains or venture into remote locations as she once did.
She now works part-time, doing web design remotely for a German firm. Her wages fund her bird rescue work. “I try to do as much good as I can. Every bird matters and in most cases it’s human-induced, whether from interference, dogs or food shortages caused by climate change.
“It’s pretty grim sometimes, but the nice part is when the birds recover and you actually get to release them back into the wild.”
Sabrina says she would like to find volunteers to help, but “most people don’t have animal husbandry skills, and the training required is quite intensive”.
Anyone finding injured seabirds can contact Sabrina on 021 585586. Those wishing to donate can email Sabrina at email@example.com, or go online to givealittle.co.nz/cause/help4wildlife or “like” the Kaikoura Wildlife Rescue page on Facebook or Instagram.