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Kiwi Project Comes Of Age

Landcare Research has just completed a 10-year study that has uncovered the main threat to our national bird, the kiwi, and revealed how best to save it. This Thursday at Tuai on the eastern edge of Te Urewera National Park, Landcare Research will officially wind up the project and give the Department of Conservation and local Maori tools to help them continue to build up kiwi numbers. Kiwi populations are stable in pest free reserves, but are generally decreasing on the mainland. With the permission of Tuhoe landowners, Landcare Research set up an experiment at Lake Waikaremoana in the national park to help find the reasons for this decline. Scientists radio-tracked kiwi and soon confirmed that stoats were the birds' downfall, killing almost all chicks. Hundreds of stoat traps were laid over more than 1700 hectares, with the help of DOC and members of local hapu. After three years of trapping, almost 60% of chicks survived to adulthood (20 weeks), when they were strong enough to defend themselves against stoats. In areas where traps were not set, the survival rate was just 7%. Population modelling by Landcare Research shows that 20% of kiwi chicks must reach adulthood to avoid population decline. Landcare Research scientist Dr John McLennan led the project. Dr McLennan says now that the necessary information has been gathered, Landcare Research will hand over tools to the Waikaremoana Maori Committee, which represents Tuhoe hapu, and to DOC, so that they can continue the kiwi management aspect of the project. The equipment includes radio tracking gear and the stoat traps, some of which were financed through the Bank of New Zealand's Kiwi Recovery Programme.

Dr McLennan is confident the kiwi have a bright future. "We are leaving them in very good heart. We finished the research project on a spectacular note, with 11 of the 14 chicks hatched in the past year surviving to safe size. "When we started, we had 24 adults in our study area. Now we have about 50 adults and 20 chicks. With continuing management, those numbers should double in three to four years." Dr McLennan says the kiwi are in excellent hands with DOC and the committee. "We have all learned a great deal about kiwi management through the research project, and also how and when stoats can be trapped most effectively. Now local people can continue the good work. The committee has provided the lead for others to follow, and I fully support them. "The future for kiwi conservation relies on communities being responsible for kiwi on their back doors." The handing over of Landcare Research assets will take place at about midday on Thursday, 27 June. Media are welcome to attend. For more information, contact: Dr John McLennan Landcare Research, Havelock North Ph: (06) 877 6580

Dr Oliver Sutherland Landcare Research, Lincoln Ph: (03) 325 6700 021 336 103

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