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Prince William Gets Back To Nature In NZ

Prince William Gets Back To Nature In NZ

From a walkabout outside the newly opened Supreme Court, Prince William was whisked away from the public gaze to an island nature sanctuary where endangered New Zealand birds live in a safe predator-free environment.

Under blue skies and on a relatively flat sea, the prince was taken by boat to Kapiti Island - just north of Wellington and about 5km off the coast - along with two boat-loads of officials and media.

Private audience

Wearing a blue sweater, khakis and sneakers, Prince William received an official welcome to the island from local Māori of the Ngati Toa Rangaiti tribe. The prince heard a history of the island that was once home to famous Māori chief Te Rauparaha, before being taken to a private audience with a kiwi - one of over 1200 on the island, according to Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger David Wrightson.

Kapiti Island nature reserve

Kapiti Island is an internationally famed nature reserve protecting some of the world's rarest fauna.

Free from introduced predators, the island is one of New Zealand's most important nature reserves - an area of uncontrolled natural forest regeneration and a centre for native bird recovery programmes.

Little spotted kiwi were first introduced to Kapiti Island 80 years ago. Other rare and protected birdlife on Kapiti Island includes the takahe, kokako, saddleback and stitchbird.


Kapiti Island Alive

On Kapiti Island, Prince William was hosted by local tourism operators Kapiti Island Alive.

Kapiti Island Alive is run by members of the Barrett family - a Māori family that has lived on the island since the early 19th century. John and Susan Barrett, and John’s sister Amo Clark, are behind the unique New Zealand nature and Māori cultural experience.

The Barretts use their accumulated knowledge and experiences of the island's history and development to introduce visitors to New Zealand fauna and flora through guided nature walks, conservation education, Māori cultural elements, story-telling and family hospitality at Kapiti Nature Lodge.

Experienced lodge guides accompany guests on day walks and night-time kiwi spotting walks.

Background: Kiwi pukupuku / little spotted kiwi

Once the most common variety of kiwi, there are now less than 1500 kiwi pukupuku or little spotted kiwi (Apteryx owenii) left in New Zealand, and Kapiti Island is one of their few remaining native habitats.

Little spotted kiwi are pale grey in colour, with darker horizontal mottling that resembles spots. They have strong, heavy legs and claws, and usually move with a slow lumbering gait but can run very fast. They have a loud shrill call.

The little spotted kiwi is the most vulnerable of all kiwi species. Their tiny size, similar to a bantam hen, makes both adults and chicks highly vulnerable to introduced predators such as stoats, ferrets, weasels, cats and dogs. Māori hunted the birds for food, and feathers which were used to make highly prized cloaks.

The little spotted kiwi used to live in parts of the North Island, and the west coast of the South Island but the population is now largely restricted to predator-free offshore islands. While numbers are expanding offshore, the potential for mainland restoration is limited to fenced-off areas.

In the bird world, the kiwi is a curious bird because it cannot fly, has loose, hair-like feathers and long whiskers, and is the only bird known to have nostrils at the end of its bill. Largely nocturnal, the kiwi burrows in the ground, and literally sniffs out food.

The kiwi also has one of the largest egg-to-body weight ratios of any bird - the egg averages 15 per cent of the female's body weight (compared to two per cent for the ostrich). Kiwis live in pairs and mate for life, sometimes for as long as 30 years.

All species of kiwi are now classified as endangered.

ENDS

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