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Christchurch kiwi namesake killed by dog

Christchurch kiwi namesake killed by dog

One of a kiwi re-introduced by the community in parkland near Wainuiomata has been killed by a dog, and with his death his potential to produce anywhere upward of 20 chicks in his life time.

Otautahi was released into the Rimutaka Forest Park in July 2012 and had been monitored by volunteer trackers since then. He was important to the population as he was a young male of breeding age, and was probably killed while searching for a mate.

The death of Otautahi is a blow to volunteers of the Rimutaka Forest Park Trust, which reintroduced kiwi to the park with support from the Department of Conservation.

Greater Wellington Regional Council, which manages the adjoining Wainuiomata Water Collection and Recreation Areas, strongly supported the initiative and will provide more signs in the area to remind dog walkers of their responsibilities.

“Kiwi are synonymous with what makes us New Zealanders, they are resilient birds provided we control introduced predators such as stoat and ferret and man’s best friend, our dogs,” said trust spokesperson Melody McLaughlin. “If the dog had been kept on a lead Otautahi would still be alive.”

It only takes seconds for a dog to crush a kiwi. While most people see them as secretive animals, they frequently nest near paths, putting them in harm’s way and making them vulnerable to dogs.

Otautahi was found beside the track leading into the Recreation Area, where dogs are often walked.

“Most owners would never expect a kiwi to be around paths or their dog to be capable of killing one, but the reality is a kiwi’s scent is irresistible to dogs, and kiwi cannot escape them. Owners need to know where their dogs are at all times and keep them inside or contained at night”, said Ms Mclaughlin.

Greater Wellington Regional Council Parks Manager Amanda Cox said that in Wainuiomata we have the only place near urban Wellington where kiwi exist in the wild.

“We need dog walkers to help us look after kiwis, take note of the signs and keep their dogs on leads at all times in the Wainuiomata Recreation Area. Some people don’t and have been used to letting their dogs run free but we think keeping kiwis safe is worth it.”

The kiwi, a three old male, was born in Christchurch a week after the February 2011 earthquake and given the Maori name for Christchurch, Otautahi.

“His death will be a loss to the region’s natural environment and to the memory of the Christchurch earthquake. It’s such a sad end,” said Ms McLaughlin.


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