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Largest ever kiwi return to Okarito

Hon Maggie Barry
Minister of Conservation

15 October 2015


Largest ever kiwi return to Okarito

The return of 50 juvenile kiwi to the Okarito forest on the West Coast is an excellent sign for recovery efforts, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says.

Released this morning at an event attended by the Department of Conservation’s Threatened Species Ambassador, Nicola Toki, the birds will take the population of the rare Rowi kiwi species in the Okarito forest to more than 400.

“This is the largest ever release of a single age group of the species into their most important breeding area,” Ms Barry says. “In Save Kiwi Month, it is encouraging to see the efforts of DOC, Kiwis for kiwi, community groups and iwi are succeeding.”

The Rowi is a rare species of kiwi which was once found over much of the West Coast and the south-east of the North Island. Due to predation by introduced pests and habitat loss, at one point the population was reduced to fewer than 200 individuals.

As part of the kiwi recovery project, eggs laid in the Okarito forest are hatched at the West Coast Wildlife Centre in Franz Josef, and then moved to predator-free Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds. After a year, the birds are captured and returned back home to Okarito.

“Kiwi chicks are extremely vulnerable to predators. By setting up kiwi crèches like the Rowi programme, they can be raised to adulthood, when they are more able to look after themselves and get on with doing what nature intended,” Ms Barry says.

Expanding kiwi crèches will be an important part of the $11.2 Budget 2015 commitment to saving the kiwi from extinction in the wild, where their numbers fall by 2 per cent a year.

“Rowi are one of five species of kiwi which have already started to see their decline turned around thanks to the efforts of DOC, iwi and community groups,” Ms Barry says. “We know that their methods work, and the Budget commitment will ensure they are able to be expanded further.”

ends

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