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Rogue predator kills four kiwi in Pukaha forest

Rogue predator kills four kiwi in Pukaha forest

Four adult kiwi in the Pukaha Mount Bruce forest have become victims of a rogue predator, believed to be a ferret, in recent weeks.

The disappointment felt by Department of Conservation staff will be shared by the schools that have adopted the kiwi, and the local community, councils and sponsors supporting the Pukaha Restoration Project

The four kiwi named Rangi, Kopakopa, Clover and Tahi (Issak) were adopted by Greytown Kindergarten, Pahiatua School, Cloverlea School and Dannevirke South School respectively.

Kiwi were returned to the Pukaha Forest in 2003, after a 100 year absence from this forest. These are the first known to have been killed by predators at Pukaha Mount Bruce since their reintroduction, programme manager biodiversity Rosemary Vander Lee said.

“We’ve had great successes with our species recovery work at Pukaha, but we know from experience that there are highs and lows in this business.”

Predator experts are certain that the recent deaths have been caused by a single mustelid, believed to be a ferret.

“There is no evidence to suggest that there has been an influx of predators to the reserve” said Mrs Vander Lee. “Steps are being taken to protect the remaining kiwi while we target the rogue predator.”

Ferrets, stoats and weasels (mustelids) are slender bodied and carnivorous mammals that were introduced to New Zealand and are now widely distributed throughout the country.

The Pukaha Restoration Project was the first of its kind in New Zealand to demonstrate that it is possible to return species to unfenced areas on the mainland from where they have become extinct. As a result of intensive levels of pest control, wild kaka, kokako and kiwi have not only survived, but successfully bred after being re-introduced to a forest where that they had long been absent. The project is a co-operative venture between the Department of Conservation, the National Wildlife Centre Trust, Rangitaane O Wairarapa, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Horizons Regional Council and the Pukaha Mount Bruce Board.

The kiwi recovery work at Pukaha Mount Bruce is supported by the Bank of New Zealand Save the Kiwi Trust.

DOC’s Wairarapa Area manager Chris Lester said the losses were “hugely” disappointing. But, put into perspective, they were indicative of the losses occurring in unmanaged forests, highlighting the vulnerability of this iconic species in the wild.

“A high percentage of kiwi in the Pukaha forest are fitted with radio transmitters, enabling us to monitor the birds on a day-to-day basis. If it weren’t for these transmitters we would probably not be aware of the deaths for months.

“Our intensive predator control within the forest is the key to overall success. It is unfortunate that the progress of this project will be severely impacted by the recent losses but I am totally confident that the project will succeed, as have our other species recovery projects.”

Find out more about Pukaha Mount Bruce on the DOC website: www.doc.govt.nz/pukaha mount bruce

DOC media liaison:

Bank of New Zealand Save the Kiwi Trust was established in November 2002 by Bank of New Zealand and the Department of Conservation, building on a sponsorship relationship that started in 1991. Bank of New Zealand Save the Kiwi Trust is responsible for public awareness and education, fundraising, sponsorship and grant allocations for kiwi recovery nationally. In 2007 alone, $760,000 was allocated to community and DOC kiwi projects. This money came from Bank of New Zealand, its staff, customers and supporters of Bank of New Zealand Save the Kiwi Trust.

Bank of New Zealand Operation Nest Egg™ is a powerful tool to reverse the decline of key kiwi populations. Eggs and chicks are harvested from nests to save them from stoats and cats. The young kiwi are returned to the wild when they weight about 1kg, big enough to fight off these predators. More than 800 kiwi chicks have been returned to the wild since the programme began in 1994, with captive facilities and hundreds of field workers from DOC and community groups throughout the country contributing to its success. The Bank of New Zealand Operation Nest Egg™ egg harvesting>chick rearing>return to the wild technique was developed through research funded solely by Bank of New Zealand and is now also used in other species recovery programmes.



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