Wellington Zoo has issued a warning to the public to pick up their rubbish after a young shag bird who ingested a discarded vape pen died overnight.
The juvenile pied shag was dropped at the zoo on May 21 by SPCA after being found on the ground, weak and emaciated, Wellington Zoo said in an Instagram post.
Shocking x-ray images show the object inside the bird.
"It’s definitely not something we’d come across before," Shanna Rose, team leader at Wellington Zoo's The Nest Te Kōhanga, told 1 NEWS.
"We weren’t sure at first and thought perhaps it was an object that had been left in the box that we put the bird in to take the X-ray. It was a bit of a mystery.
"We suspect that the bird would’ve seen the vape pen and thought it was a nice shiny snack."
An endoscopy procedure was carried out on the sick bird and the vape pen was removed, however, the bird later died.
It's believed the bird would not have been able to eat for days before it came to the zoo, as well as suffering from serious metal and nicotine poisoning.
"The bird was in a pretty bad way and would’ve suffered quite a bit as it wouldn’t have been able to feed itself for quite a while, it was slowly starving to death," Rose said.
"Sadly, we could not save the bird despite the team’s best efforts.
"It’s a pretty terrible way for a bird to lose its life. All birds are precious to us but to lose one this way was especially awful, the team were devastated."
However, Rose said they unfortunately saw animals who have ingested rubbish regularly.
"We want to remind people to please dispose of their rubbish carefully so we can avoid animals needlessly suffering and dying," she said.
"Rubbish can often end up ensnaring wildlife or getting accidentally ingested, leading to some tragic consequences. Please show your love for our feathery friends by being a tidy Kiwi."
Meanwhile, litter-fighting warrior Des Watson told 1 NEWS the death was "pretty shocking", but added he was more concerned about other waste hurting New Zealand's wildlife.
"I think the vape pens are the the least of the marine bird's worries. What about the millions of pieces of polystyrene, plastic nurdles, lollipop sticks, cigarette butts, plastic wrappers, plastic bottles, bottle caps?" he asked.
"It's literally out of control."
Watson has been busy continuing his efforts to clean up New Zealand.
"I've been in Waihi Beach for nearly two weeks now, some days collecting about 1000 items from the coastlines," he said.
"There's millions of plastic nurdles and polystyrene and plastics that have washed out from the dunes and been smashed by the king tides."