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Recuperated Pukaha kiwi returns to the forest

Recuperated Pukaha kiwi returns to the forest

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Kopakopa recuperated and ready to go back to the forest as part of Bank of New Zealand Operation Nest Egg™ programme. (Photo by Amanda Cosgrove, DOC)

Kopakopa, the nine year old female kiwi who injured her beak a year ago in the Pukaha Mount Bruce forest, was re-released back there today.

Adopted by Pahiatua School when she was freed into the wild in 2004, Kopakopa was recaptured early last year when noticed that her beak had developed an indentation and she was losing weight. Born at Otorohanga Kiwi House on 26 February 1999, Kopakopa produced a chick in the Pukaha forest before her injury was discovered. The team at Pukaha Mount Bruce were keen to make sure she was fit and well as part of Bank of New Zealand Operation Nest Egg programme.

They monitored her closely and her weight started to drop so they decided to capture her to get her checked out.

“We noticed her out foraging for food during the day so we decided to bring her in for an examination,” says Department of Conservation captive species ranger Darren Page.

Eight-year-old Kopakopa was sent to the team at the New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre, Massey University, where they determined that her nasal passages had been exposed from dirt getting under a layer of her beak, which was subsequently lifting off. They carried out minor surgery and Kopakopa returned to the Pukaha kiwi house to recuperate. Initially she was placed in an outside enclosure and then transferred to the nocturnal house to see if she would breed with Ruakiwi our current noc house male. Later she was moved back outside after producing an infertile egg. A year later her beak has healed sufficiently, she’s healthy and back to her strong-minded self.

“Kopakopa is a large, stroppy bird who has been great to have on display,” says Darren Page. “She’s very visual, always probing around and a great attraction to visitors to Pukaha. However, she is now well enough to be released back into the wild where she belongs. She’ll be missed around by the staff and volunteers but we’re happy she’s well again.”

Kiwi have been known to live between 40-50 years so Kopakopa, now aged nine, should have the opportunity to have a long and productive life out in the forest.

Operation Nest Egg began in 1994 when researchers discovered that only 5 percent of kiwi chicks were surviving to adulthood thanks to introduced pests such as stoats and wild cats. Every summer wild kiwi eggs and young chicks are collected and looked after in captive-rearing facilities similar to those found at Pukaha Mount Bruce. The operation nest egg programme run at Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre has successfully incubated and hatched 9 kiwi eggs since 2005. Six of these eggs came from the Pukaha Mount Bruce reserve with the remaining three transferred from the Rimutaka Forest Park. Four of these chicks have already been released back into the wild with more releases planned this year. The kiwi captive breeding programme at Pukaha Mount Bruce has also yielded kiwi chicks during the past three years. The three chicks produced from this programme were released into the Pukaha Mount Bruce Reserve during 2006 and 2007.

“It’s great to be part of this special programme in New Zealand,” DOC biodiversity programme manager Rosemary Vander Lee says.

“That we can help maintain this iconic species in the forest is both exciting and rewarding. Pahiatua School pupils were lucky enough to be able to attend the re-release of Kopakopa. None of the students are old enough to remember when she was originally released so it’s great to be able to share this special experience with the next generation.”


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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