Three out of every four viable kiwi eggs lifted from a Hawke’s Bay forest during the 2017/2018 season of Operation Nest Egg have resulted in juvenile birds that will be returned either to the forest or to a captive breeding programme this summer (2018/2019).
Of 59 eggs that were taken for incubation from the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust’s property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest adjacent to Te Urewera National Park, 44 resulted in birds that hatched and are being reared to release weight as part of the nationwide kiwi conservation initiative.
This contrasts starkly with the five percent chance that kiwi have of making it to adulthood if their eggs are left in the bush unprotected against predators.
Eggs from Maungataniwha are incubated at Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua and some of the resulting chicks are reared within the predator-proof enclosure at Cape Sanctuary near Napier until they are large enough to fend for themselves and can be released back into the wild.
Not all kiwi taken from Maungataniwha as eggs make their way back to that forest. Previously some have been released at Cape Sanctuary, Otanewainuku, the Whirinaki, the Kaweka Ranges and into captive breeding programmes.
“We certainly haven’t got to the conveyor belt production of chicks yet and so each one is still micro-managed at every stage from egg to release,” said Trust conservation specialist Tamsin Ward-Smith. “It truly is a privilege to send a healthy juvenile back into the wild. Getting them to that stage is a result of many people each doing their part.”
The Forest Lifeforce Restoration (FLR) Trust 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.