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Operation Nest Egg Adult Kiwi Killed By Ferret

The first Operation Nest Egg-raised kiwi to be sitting on an egg has been killed by a ferret, the Department of Conservation announced today.

Kiwi Recovery Programme co-ordinator Dr Hugh Robertson said the loss was tragic.

“This kiwi, Gregory, was the first Operation Nest Egg kiwi to have successfully reached this stage in breeding. While the loss of any adult kiwi sitting on an egg is tragic, this loss is doubly so. We were very excited about the prospect of this kiwi raising a chick – it was only one month away from hatching.”

Gregory, a three-year-old male kiwi, was discovered dead in a Northland bush reserve with puncture wounds matching a ferret’s teeth. The egg from Gregory’s nest was missing, presumably eaten by the ferret as well. A female Operation Nest Egg kiwi, Sarkaia, was discovered nearby. The cause of its death could not be established as it was decomposed, although it was likely to have also been killed by a ferret.

Dr Robertson said six adult kiwi, including Sarkaia’s father, were killed by a ferret in 1996 before it was caught.

“Operation Nest Egg, a key part of the Bank of New Zealand-sponsored Kiwi Recovery Programme, takes eggs or young chicks from the wild and raises them in captivity so they can be released again once they’re large enough to fend for themselves from attacks by wild cats and stoats. However, it is very difficult to protect kiwi, even full-grown kiwi, from attacks by dogs and ferrets, except through public education about the threats these animals pose to kiwi.”

Bank of New Zealand’s Head of Corporate Marketing, Kieron Goodwin, said while the statistics on kiwi survival showed that only 5% of kiwi chicks survived to six months of age, Operation Nest Egg raised the survival rate to about 80%.

“This death demonstrates that kiwi continue to need all the help they can get. Although it is an uphill battle to save the kiwi, one positive we can take from this tragedy is that we have learnt that an Operation Nest Egg-raised kiwi can pair up with a wild bird and attempt to raise a chick.”

Kevin Smith, Forest and Bird’s Conservation Director, said this tragic event highlighted the threat that ferrets pose to our national icon, which was already in big trouble.

“These killing machines are destroying our wildlife up and down the country.”

He urged people to make a submission on DOC's public discussion document What can we do about ferrets? before the deadline of 31 December.

The Kiwi Recovery Programme is a Threatened Species Trust partnership involving Bank of New Zealand, Forest and Bird, and the Department of Conservation.

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