A bumper harvest of kiwi eggs has marked the first half of this year’s kiwi conservation work in the Maungataniwha Native Forest in inland Hawke’s Bay. Conservationists working for the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust have lifted 32 eggs so far, compared to 46 for the entire season last year, and are reporting viability rates of 80 percent as opposed to the normal rate of around 65 percent.
Trust staffer Barry Crene said four of the Trust’s monitored kiwi had abandoned their nests this year, possibly due a very wet Spring. He had received reports of similar behaviour from other kiwi egg collection projects across the North Island.
Crene said the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust would start lifting eggs from the second clutch before Christmas.
Kiwi eggs from the Trust’s Maungataniwha Kiwi Project are incubated at Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua. Until now all the resulting chicks have been reared in safety at the Cape Sanctuary near Napier. When they are large enough they are released back into the forest from which the eggs were taken.
But growing numbers and pressure on the space available have forced the Trust to find other safe ‘half-way houses’ for the birds to grow.
It is working with the National Aquarium of New Zealand to expand the aquarium’s breeding facility so it can take an extra 30 birds a year, about half the number generated by the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project. The rest will continue to go to the Cape Sanctuary.
“The fact that kiwi egg collection initiatives are, between them, producing too many birds for existing rearing facilities to cope with, is testament to the effectiveness of the work being done by hundreds of dedicated people in the back blocks of this country, from Cape Reinga to Bluff,” said Trust Chairman Simon Hall.
The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust celebrated recently the return to Maungataniwha of the 200th young adult kiwi raised as part of its kiwi egg collection work, ensuring the viability of the population there for the next three decades.
Between inception in 2006 and the end of March last year it had harvested 453 eggs and seen 237 young adults released back into the wild.
The Forest Lifeforce Restoration (FLR) Trust, whose patron is Kiwi icon Rachel Hunter, is fast carving out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country.
In addition to the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project the Trust runs a series of native flora and fauna regeneration projects. These include a drive to increase the wild-grown population of Kakabeak (Clianthus maximus), an extremely rare type of shrub, and the re-establishment of native plants and forest on 4,000 hectares currently, or until recently, under pine.