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Zoo achieves century for Kiwi Recovery

Zoo achieves century for Kiwi Recovery

Auckland Zoo is today celebrating the successful incubating and hatching of its 100th kiwi for Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery’s Operation Nest Egg.

Rau (Maori for one hundredth), who weighed in at 430grams at birth, took close to four days to hatch from the time it first cracked its external shell - an exhausting but normal process for a kiwi chick.

A lengthy 'labour' it may have been, but for the zoo's Native Fauna keepers, it was well worth the wait to see the safe arrival of this newborn, whose birth marks a significant milestone for the zoo. Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery’s Operation Nest Egg was introduced in 1994, and since then, approximately 300 chicks have been incubated, hatched, reared, and released). The zoo has been involved in the programme since 1996.

Kicking its way out of its shell just hours after Rau was Rau moa (Maori for 101). The two have been sharing an incubator - mostly sleeping and doing the important job of slowly digesting their yolk - which takes approximately the first seven days of a kiwi's life.

"With mammalian predators killing 95 per cent of kiwi chicks within the first six months of their lives, this is a really important programme. We're delighted to be contributing and really proud to be achieving such a high rate of successfully incubating and rearing for release," says the zoo's Native Fauna Team Leader, Andrew Nelson.

"Overall, since 1996, we've had an 83 per cent success rate with viable eggs being released. But since 1999, with refining the process, and also being able to release the chicks at around three weeks of age onto a protected creche island, we've been able to achieve a 93 per cent success rate," says Mr Nelson.

"What's also great is that these chicks are going back to where they came from, and that kiwi numbers in these predator controlled areas are increasing."

Auckland Zoo receives wild eggs collected from the Hodges Bush area (west of Whangarei - and within a 50km radius of the Bream Head kiwi zone area) by Department of Conservation staff. So far this season the zoo has already released three kiwi chicks onto the predator-free Motuora Island in the Hauraki Gulf. Another egg is currently incubating, and a further seven chicks are being reared, making it a very full house at the zoo's Native Fauna Conservation Centre!

Like Rau and Rau moa, these chicks will remain at the centre until they regain their hatch weight – usually around 375 grams. Chicks stay on Motuora Island until they reach 1kg in weight, at which time they are big enough to defend themselves from stoats, the major predator of these young chick, and are then released back into the Bream Head kiwi zone area.

"Over the past seven years keepers and veterinary staff have gained an enormous amount of knowledge and expertise in the incubation and captive management of kiwi and our Kiwi Incubation and Rearing Protocol is now a valuable resource nationwide," says Mr Nelson.

"We've also able to share our knowledge to visitors. When people come along to our Native Fauna Encounter, there's an opportunity to talk about the plight of kiwi, the threats they face, and the kinds of things individuals can do to help save kiwi. Because along with programmes like Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery, it is going to take the awareness and efforts of all New Zealanders to prevent this unique and precious bird from becoming extinct."

This sentiment is reinforced by Kieron Goodwin, Executive Director of Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery Trust. “Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery’s Operation Nest Egg is an important initiative in halting the decline of kiwi. It helps maintain or recover key populations while research goes on into effective methods to control stoats and wild cats over large areas of forest.”

“The zoo is playing an important role in ensuring the future survival of our national icon, and the arrival of Rau, its 100th chick, is well worth celebrating,” says Mr Goodwin.

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