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Dr. Joanne Paul-Murphy Recognized for Conservation Work in New Zealand


January 10, 2017

Dr. Joanne Paul-Murphy with a kakapo in New Zealand.

Dr. Joanne Paul-Murphy with a kakapo in New Zealand.

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For more than a decade, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Professor Dr. Joanne Paul-Murphy has aided a conservation group in New Zealand working to save a critically endangered parrot species. The kakapo is a large, flightless nocturnal parrot indigenous to New Zealand. With only 164 remaining on Earth, the kakapo has benefited from Dr. Paul-Murphy’s involvement.

Volunteering with the Kakapo Recovery Group, Dr. Paul-Murphy, a zoological medicine veterinarian with a special interest in birds, has been able to provide hands-on proficiency to significantly advance the management of health issues and disease risk, as well as aid in hand-rearing chicks.

“Dr. Paul-Murphy’s contributions, coupled with an enthusiastic and practical approach to her work, has undoubtedly proven her as a popular member of the team,” said Deidre Vercoe, operations manager of the Kakapo Recovery Group. “From steep climbs through thick forest in the middle of the night to 24-hour care of critically ill chicks, we have relied heavily on her dedication. She has never let us down.”

Dr. Paul-Murphy, chief of the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery Service at the UC Davis veterinary hospital, was recently recognized by the group for her “unwavering commitment, professionalism and willingness to share (her) expertise.” In presenting her with the “Award for Outstanding Services to Kakapo Conservation,” the group thanked Dr. Paul-Murphy for her “immensely valued work.”

“I feel very honored by this recognition from the Kakapo Recovery Group – it is a premier program amongst international conservation programs,” said Dr. Paul-Murphy. “I have been fortunate to be associated with them since 2002, when the surviving kakapo population was made up of only 86 birds.”

That number has now doubled. During Dr. Paul-Murphy’s recent sabbatical year in New Zealand, she served as a scientific consultant to the Kakapo Recovery Group and provided clinical care to the birds. Forty-six kakapo chicks hatched during this time, with 34 of them being added to the current population of 164 birds.

In 2009, one of the chicks from that year was named Bluster Two-toed Murphy, after Dr. Paul-Murphy saved the 14-day old chick from life threatening injuries during a blustery storm. The chick was transported off the island in a helicopter as soon as the storm cleared, and she was able to anesthetize him, suture a large wound over the abdomen and amputate two crushed toes. Dr. Paul-Murphy considers it her greatest honor from the kakapo group.

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