Well-known Hawke’s Bay conservation specialist Tamsin Ward-Smith has joined Hawke’s Bay-based Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust to assist with expanding the Trust’s kiwi conservation work.
Her brief includes overseeing the development of chicks that hatch from eggs collected at the Trust’s property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest, working with the predator-proof sanctuaries where they are raised until they are large enough to be released back into the forest.
The number of kiwi chicks being incubated and sent to predator-proof sanctuaries for rearing is increasing all around the North Island. As a result it is becoming increasingly difficult to find safe places for these chicks to grow.
The Trust’s Maungataniwha Kiwi Project is fast carving out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country. As the number of kiwi chicks it produces continues to increase Ms Ward-Smith will ensure they are all looked after well until they can be released into the wild.
“There is a good deal of micro-management involved,” she said. “It can be particularly tough for chicks that are crèched from early December through until January, when conditions are dry and food hard to find. Some chicks may need supplementary feeding with food drops, huhu grubs or worms, or some may even need to return to captivity for a bit longer.
“It will be my job to manage this for Maungataniwha chicks, wherever they are being crèched, until they’re large enough to be taken back home to the forest.”
In anticipation of even more chicks out of the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust has been working with Napier City Council to increase the chick capacity of council-owned kiwi rearing facilities. An additional 22 outdoor kiwi runs are being built there with Trust funding and Ms Ward-Smith hopes this will ease some of the pressure across the North Island for safe nursery places.
Some Maungataniwha chicks incubated at Kiwi Encounter are now also being reared to release weight there.
“I’ve worked with the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust for many years in another capacity and it’s a privilege now to be working directly with Simon Hall and his team,” Ms Ward-Smith said. “I do feel very fortunate to be doing for a living something that I am so passionate about.”
Ms Ward-Smith is also the eastern region brown kiwi coordinator for Kiwis for Kiwi, the only national charity dedicated to protecting kiwi. In this role she helps to co-ordinate the catching of males for Operation Nest Egg, the nationwide incubation and release scheme. She is also involved with setting up ‘kohanga’ sites where the species can be reintroduced safely and effectively.