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July 2010

 

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Rehab for the birds - kiwi trials treadmill

30 Jul 2010

He’s smaller than usual and he’s had more than his fair share of misfortune, but Piwi the kiwi has become the latest chapter in an unfolding story of Kiwi ingenuity.

While working out might be normal for anyone recovering from injury, this plucky little kiwi bird is making history as the first of his feathered kind to trial treadmill rehabilitation.

It's a story of survival in the face of adversity that’s due in part to the plucky little kiwi, and also thanks to the quick witted innovative Kiwi vets and physios supervising his rehab.

At only half the size he should be for his age and extremely accident-prone, Piwi is best described as a runt.

But the little brown kiwi has proved he’s made of tough stuff and is now recovering from two broken legs after ground-breaking rehabilitation treatment - involving regular work-outs on the treadmill in Massey University's Wildlife Ward, at Palmerston North.

Ruapehu - Manawatu - Rotorua

Piwi arrived in the ward in December 2009, after having been found near Mt Ruapehu - in New Zealand’s central North Island wilderness - with a badly healed broken leg.

At only half the size of a normal four-year-old kiwi, Piwi would have had very little chance of surviving in the wild.

But Massey veterinarians took Piwi in, and began his rehab by re-breaking his little kiwi leg to straighten it.

In April this year Piwi was sent to the Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park near Rotorua for further rehabilitation, but broke his other leg the first night he was there.

The reason for the second break isn’t known, but vets think Piwi’s muscles may have been weakened from coping with his leg injury.

Kiwi blood transfusion
Losing blood, Piwi was rushed back to Massey University's veterinary science centre.

Fortunately another kiwi was available to provide blood for a transfusion, and Piwi pulled through. But his fight wasn't over.

Palmerston North physiotherapist Fiona O'Connor prescribed a strict rehabilitation regime, including treadmill workouts, massage and physio exercises.

It was the first time the veterinarians had used a treadmill for a kiwi's muscle development ... and Piwi wasn’t happy.



Stubborn, grumpy Piwi
Wildlife vet Dr Lisa Argilla said Piwi didn't take to the treadmill naturally, and would be grumpy when woken for his workout three times a week.

"He was particularly stubborn in true kiwi form, and just sat there [as if saying] I'm not going to do this.

"He'd bite carer's hands when he got fed up with walking. But he's quite a tolerant little guy," she said.

Piwi endured 10 minutes on the treadmill every few days to strengthen his legs, as well as having physiotherapy with regular massage.

Ready for the wild
Vets said the rehabilitation programme really helped, and Piwi has now returned to Rainbow Springs for further rehabilitation before he is released back into the wild.

The wildlife team at Massey said they would miss their favourite kiwi but had done the best they could for him.

"We are very worried about him, he's so little. Hopefully he finds a mate who will hang out with him," said Dr Argilla.

More information


Iconic New Zealand birds

Bird conservation in New Zealand


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Related Links
Other Sites
•  Te Ara: a remarkable bird
•  Kiwi Encounter Rotorua website
•  BNZ Save the Kiwi - ONE website
•  Massey Wildlife Health Centre

 

Piwi the kiwi on the treadmill - click for more.
Piwi the kiwi on the treadmill

   

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