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Distress and success in kiwi breeding sanctuaries

Distress and success in kiwi breeding sanctuaries

A heavy loss of kiwi chicks on the West Coast has put a dampener on an otherwise successful breeding season in the country’s five kiwi sanctuaries, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today.

“Stoats have wiped out all 14 kiwi chicks that were being monitored in the Okarito sanctuary and the Department of Conservation are mounting a rescue operation on five eggs that are still being monitored in the area,” Mr Carter said.

“This is distressing news because Okarito brown kiwi are considered to be one of the rarest types of all kiwi and it goes against the successful trend of raising kiwi chicks through to adulthood developing in Northland, Coromandel and Tongariro sanctuaries,” Mr Carter said.

“The loss at Okarito has occurred because heavy rimu fruiting early last year provided ample food for rats, providing plenty of extra prey for stoats. As a result, the stoat population boomed and had a devastating effect on the vulnerable kiwi chicks.”

He said stoats have been implicated in 13 of the 14 deaths at Okarito and all had been killed before 11 weeks of age.

“There could not be a more graphic example of the impact introduced pests have on our native wildlife. We have a long and difficult battle ahead of us to save our national bird,”Mr Carter said.

Mr Carter said trapping between May 2001 and January 2003 caught 1000 stoats and 2600 rats in the area, with 175 caught in just the last month (January 2003).

“In the nearby Haast sanctuary the news is little better. There were seven monitored chicks produced this season, two are still alive, two were killed by stoats, one drowned and two chicks are missing.”

“Fortunately, stoats are unlikely to attack adult kiwi and all 80 adult kiwi that are being monitored at Okarito are still alive.”

He said the losses at Okarito have provided information that will make future stoat explosions in the area more manageable. MORE MORE “We now know what extreme pressure kiwi are subjected to in this area and we can put strategies in place to cope with this. The Department of Conservation and range of other agencies are working to create better traps, toxins and other techniques for stoat control,” Mr Carter said.

He said the North Island sanctuaries have fared better this year as the forest hasn’t fruited so heavily and stoat numbers are lower.

“To date no chicks have been lost at the 12,000 hectare Moehau Sanctuary in Coromandel and 14 out of 17 monitored chicks are still alive and well in a series of reserves in Northland.”

Mr Carter said in Tongariro 17 chicks have hatched and are being raised in the Warrenheip predator free reserve in Waikato under the Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery Trust Operation Nest Egg programme.

“The five kiwi sanctuaries established by the Government are being used to both protect kiwi and test the best possible predator control techniques. Those that are the most successful will ultimately be used more widely to save the kiwi.”

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