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200th rowi kiwi returned to the wild

200th rowi kiwi returned to the wild

The return of 12 juvenile rowi kiwi to the Ōkārito Kiwi Sanctuary today includes the 200th of this rare species to be raised through the successful BNZ Operation Nest Egg programme.

The 12 birds, which spent the last 11 months on predator-free Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds, were blessed by Kāti Mahaki ki Makaawhio at the Westland National Park Visitor Centre in Franz Josef before being released into the Ōkārito forest.

Rowi has been brought back from a population low of fewer than 200 birds in 1998 to about 400. The birds released today were taken as eggs from the forest and incubated and hatched at the West Coast Wildlife Centre in Franz Josef.

Department of Conservation biodiversity manager Jo Macpherson says the BNZ Operation Nest Egg programme has been critical to rowi recovery.

“If these birds had been left to hatch in the wild 95% would have been killed by stoats. But this programme allows us to boost the population by removing the eggs and chicks when they would be most vulnerable and returning them when they are big enough to fend off stoats.”

Under this programme the number of birds reaching adulthood has increased from two to about 34 per year. Controlling rat and stoat numbers in the sanctuary is also important for ongoing rowi survival as well as benefitting other species.

Kiwi trust Kiwis for kiwi, a key supporter of rowi recovery, has been integral to the return of 200 rowi to the wild.

Kiwis for kiwi Director Michelle Impey says: “It is important to celebrate the successes, and the return of the 200th rowi to the wild is a landmark achievement.

“To bring our rarest kiwi back from the brink is truly worthy of celebration. We’re proud of the work this team has done, and urge all New Zealanders to support them and the countless other people working hard to save kiwi.”

The rowi recovery programme is also supported by communities around the kiwi sanctuary at Franz Josef, Ōkārito and Whataroa and many local businesses.


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