One of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation programmes in the country has a raft of new birds to add to its work after a successful ‘prospecting’ exercise in May. Ten volunteers identified eight new breeding pairs, two breeding pairs that were already known about and five new male birds that can now be tagged and added to the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project operated by the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust in the mountainous forests of inland Hawke’s Bay.
The Trust recently released back into the wild its 300th bird reared over 11 seasons as part of the nationwide Operation Nest Egg initiative. This is where eggs are retrieved from nests, incubated and hatched under specialist care, and the resulting chicks reared in predator-proof areas to a size where they can safely be released back into the forests from where their eggs were taken.
The newly-identified birds will be caught and tagged by specially trained and equipped kiwi catchers. Trust staff will then be able to track them during the breeding season and, at an appropriate time, retrieve their eggs for incubation.
There are currently 45 tagged kiwi on the Trust’s property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest. It is hoped that May’s ‘prospecting’ exercise will bring this to 50.
“It’s a very simple equation,” said Pete Shaw, the Trust’s forest manager. “The more kiwi we’re able to tag, the more eggs we’re able to retrieve, the more kiwi chicks we’re able to save from predators, the more adult kiwi are able to support the recovery of the species.
“It’s not rocket-science but it is pretty gruelling, expensive and consistently demanding work.”
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.