Image: Kiwi Chick Removal Begins In Okarito
DOC ranger Jo Tilson with one of the chicks removed from Okarito this morning as part of the Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery’s Operation Nest Egg programme. (Photo by Ian Gill)
Three kiwi chicks have been removed from the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary using the Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery’s Operation Nest Egg programme, West Coast Conservator Mike Slater announced today.
Mr Slater said the chicks are the first to be removed by rangers in anticipation of a stoat population explosion likely to occur in December and January.
“We are getting prepared because although stoat numbers are currently low in the sanctuary there are considerably more rats compared to this time last year,” Mr Slater said.
“We are aware that stoat numbers are very much lower inside the sanctuary than outside the sanctuary, our challenge in the coming months is to control the invasion.”
Mr Slater welcomed the news that the West Coast Regional Council had granted consent that would enable an aerial 1080 control operation to take place in the sanctuary to control rats.
“It’s another tool at our disposal and in the coming weeks we will be looking at whether a rat control operation at this time can deliver a sufficient benefit to the kiwi population given the stoat’s capacity for reinvasion.”
“In the meantime we are proceeding with our first line of defence in our current situation which is removed chicks from a potentially impossible survival situation.”
Rangers, such as Jo Tilson, are spearheading the arduous task of capturing tiny chicks within the rugged 10,000 hectare South Okarito Forest.
Jo captured her chick at the end of a motionless all-night nest stakeout under dim red torchlight in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
It was her forth night over a month staking out this particular nest – waiting, waiting for a chick to emerge with just enough red light to dimly see the nest entrance without disturbing the chick.
“It’s just a waiting game without movement,” Jo said.
Finally at 3am the chick emerged and was caught by hand and Jo was able to return to her tent for a few short hours sleep until day break and a two-hour tramp out of the forest.
“The chick has put on 50-grams since it was caught and it’s looking very good,” Jo said.
The chick will join two others, removed from the forest this morning, on the trip to a predator-free island next week where they will grow into stoat-proof juveniles ready to return to Okarito next year.
The Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary covers 10,000 hectares just north of Franz Josef in South Westland. The sanctuary is home to an estimated 100 breading pairs of rowi (Okarito Brown Kiwi) which are ranked as a nationally critical species. DOC maintains a network of 3000 stoat traps throughout the sanctuary. In years when stoat numbers are low the trap network provides a high level boost to the kiwi population’s breeding success rate.