Sunday, 09 August 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Volunteers help turn the tide for Coromandel kiwi

A chick from the Kuaotunu peninsula has become the 100th Coromandel kiwi to be released on predator free Motutapu island in a project aimed at growing the local population of our national bird.

Representatives from five kiwi conservation groups from across the peninsula celebrated the momentous occasion marking the half-way point in the Operation Nest Egg programme, which could see new kiwi returned to the Coromandel in less than five years. 

Paula Williams, project manager with Project Kiwi, where the thus far unnamed chick came from, said the goal was to relocate 200 kiwi representing the entire Coromandel Peninsula to the island where they could safely breed and grow the population, away from predators. Paula, who is also the regional co-ordinator for the Kohanga Kiwi strategy coordinated by Kiwis for Kiwi, said Coromandel is leading the way in terms of the fight to save our iconic bird.

“Hundreds of volunteers are working to make this possible. Their efforts have already seen a 4.8 per cent growth in the Coromandel’s kiwi population.” This far exceeds the Department of Conservation’s goal to turn the current annual two per cent decline in numbers into a two percent increase.

The success locally is due to the fact that around 75 per cent of Coromandel kiwi live within zones that have pest and predator controls in place. “That is what makes the difference. Determined individuals and groups who are effectively sticking to their knitting and doing what needs to be done, getting out there time and time again and doing what we know works,” Paula said.

Representatives of Whenuakite Kiwi Care, Kapowai Kiwi Care Group, Thames Coast Kiwi Care Group, the Moehau Environment Group and Project Kiwi joined local iwi at the special ceremony on Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf last Friday. “It was incredibly exciting, and it was fitting that all our local groups were there, they are the unsung heroes who are responsible for this progress,” Paula said.

An original plan under DOC would have seen a total of 40 birds moved to Motutapu. “It would have taken 50 years to reach a point where we could think about moving birds back. When Kiwis for Kiwi took over the project we began to accelerate it. Working with local groups, within a couple of years we are now up to 100 birds. If we continue with this progress, we will see the first kiwis being returned to the Coromandel within five years,” Paula explained.

By proportionally relocating chicks from all areas of the peninsula, Operation Nest Egg effectively replicates the genetic make-up of the Coromandel kiwi population on Motutapu. Eggs are transferred from nests at around 65 days and transported to Auckland Zoo or the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua. Once hatched they are raised and monitored for four to five weeks before being released to start life on Motutapu.

“There will certainly already be chicks that have been born on the island. We estimate that by 2021 we will be going in and doing grid searches and other investigations to see how the population is progressing.” Once the island reaches around half its capacity of 300 breeding pairs, birds can start being returned.

Paula said preparations would be stepped up to ensure the next generation of kiwi had safe zones to come back to. “We will also be looking at establishing corridors to link the zones where we have pest and predator control measures so that the kiwi can move as freely as possible. We need to continue to support and fund our amazing local groups over the next few years so that when we return these kiwi to the Coromandel they have the best possible chance of survival.”

This kiwi which came from a nest on the Kuaotunu peninsula become the 100th Coromandel chick to be relocated to predator free Motutapu Island when it was released there on Friday by Kiwis for Kiwi executive director, Michelle Impey.

Pictured: This kiwi which came from a nest on the Kuaotunu Peninsula become the 100th Coromandel chick to be relocated to predator free Motutapu Island when it was released last Friday by Kiwis for Kiwi executive director, Michelle Impey.

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