Image: Haast Kiwi Chick – First In Queenstown
The birth of a Haast tokoeka kiwi chick in Queenstown marks a milestone for the Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery’s Operation Nest Egg programme, West Coast Coast Conservator Mike Slater announced today.
“This is the first time that a Haast tokoeka egg has been hatched outside of the wild and it’s a very important step in our management of the Haast Tokoeka Sanctuary, Mr Slater said.
“Up until now information about incubation and hatching has been a vital missing gap in our knowledge about the early life of these rare birds,” Mr Slater said.
In about two weeks DOC rangers will release the chick inside the predator fence at Burwood Reserve where it can grow to a stoat-proof size before returning to the Haast Tokoeka Sanctuary next year.
Early last month DOC rangers carefully lifted the egg from a nest located in the remote outer edge of the sanctuary and used life support techniques developed through the Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery’s Operation Nest Egg programme to deliver it to the Kiwi and Birdlife Park incubation facility at Queenstown.
“The great work done by Matt Wong and his team at the Kiwi and Birdlife Park to hatch this egg is a glowing example of how kiwis are working to save kiwi through the Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery Trust,” Mr Slaters said.
DOC intends to hatch two more chicks under the programme, but is not currently using the technique to maintain the population.
“The stoat trapping programme in the Haast Tokoeka Sanctuary is working very well, so this is an opportune time to confirm whether or not we also have the option of removing eggs to safety if we are unfortunate enough to strike a season of unusually high numbers of rats and stoats,” Mr Slater said.
In the wild kiwi chicks are not nursed by their parents and they must feed themselves to survive. To do this they forage in the forest for extended periods which leaves them exposed to stoat attack.
“The next ten days will be very critical for this chick. This is the time when it has to teach itself to feed before it finishes absorbing its yoke sac. It is a difficult transition period and there is nothing that can be humanly done to assist,” Mr Slater said.
The Haast Tokoeka Sanctuary covers 11,400ha and is 25kms South of Haast township in South Westland. The sanctuary is home to an estimated 200-300 tokoeka which are ranked as a nationally critical species. DOC maintains a network of 1486 stoat traps throughout the sanctuary to reduce chick predation and boost population’s breeding success rate.