Job done – Kevin marks turning point for kiwi conservancy

New forest resident secures kiwi conservation for next three decades

A very ordinary brown kiwi with an unremarkable name signalled a truly outstanding feat of endangered species conservation last week. Kevin the kiwi became the 200th young adult bird to be released into the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust’s Maungataniwha Native Forest property in inland Hawke’s Bay, ensuring the viability of the population there for the next three decades.

The Trust’s Maungataniwha Kiwi Project has partnered with Kiwis for kiwi in its Operation Nest Egg initiative. It is fast carving out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country. 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.

This 52.3 percent success rate 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.

Kevin came to Maungataniwha from a kiwi conservation captive breeding programme in Napier. The fact that he is an ‘outsider’ will help diversify and strengthen the kiwi gene pool in this regenerating native forest.

Last week’s release is significant because population modelling suggests around 200 kiwi would need to be released back into the Maungataniwha Native Forest to make the population there secure for the next 30 years.

“We can never say that any kiwi population is truly out of the woods but we have come an enormous way to get to the point where we can now say that the population at Maungataniwha is viable for the next three decades,” said Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust Chairman Simon Hall. “Now work starts to safeguard their future here for the three decades after that.”

Eggs are taken from the Trust’s property at Maungataniwha, adjacent to Te Urewera National Park, and sent to its conservation partner Kiwi Encounter for incubation. The resulting chicks are then reared at the Cape Sanctuary until they are large enough to defend themselves against predators, before being returned to the wild.

Not all kiwi taken from Maungataniwha as eggs make their way back to that forest. By the end of March last year 89 had been released at the Cape Sanctuary, Otanewainuku, the Whirinaki, the Kaweka Ranges and into various captive breeding programmes.

In the early stages of the project some of the Maungataniwha chicks remained at the Cape Sanctuary to help form a breeding population there.

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.

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