Man’s Best Friend Is Not A Kiwi’s Best Friend
Before lockdown-fatigued residents escape Auckland for the summer, New Zealand’s most celebrated Olympian is asking dog owners to keep their furry friends on a lead for the sake of our national icon.
Lisa Carrington and her dog Colin have joined forces with Save the Kiwi to raise awareness about the threat of dogs on kiwi ahead of a highly anticipated summer.
Dogs are one of the main reasons adult kiwi are killed in the wild. Unlike birds that fly, kiwi lack a breastbone which means that even just an inquisitive sniff from the friendliest pooch has the potential to fatally injure a kiwi.
Injuries caused by dogs can result in a long, drawn-out, painful death for kiwi. Damaged internal organs can cause extensive internal bleeding. Despite a kiwi having a strong kick when provoked, a dog can easily snap their legs too.
The Department of Conservation’s Kiwi Recovery Group leader Jess Scrimgeour says that normally you would expect a kiwi to live for at least 30 or 40 years. The impact of dogs can reduce this to only 14 years, less than half of what it should be.
“Based on radiotracking studies from different regions recording the cause of deaths to adult kiwi, we estimate that eight kiwi could be killed by dogs every week. This means that dogs could be responsible for over 400 kiwi deaths a year across the North Island.”
Save the Kiwi executive director Michelle Impey says any dog has the potential to kill a kiwi, regardless of its size, breed, temperament, or training.
“Dogs are inherently hunters so even the most gentle and well-behaved dog can become uncontrollable when it smells an interesting scent – especially if the smell is new to the dog,” says Ms Impey. “Kiwi are especially attractive to dogs because they have a strong, distinctive, and irresistible smell.”
Ms Impey says the best thing dog owners can do for kiwi is to keep their dogs away from areas where kiwi live, particularly holiday hotspots like Northland and Coromandel.
“Do your research and find out if kiwi live near where you’re heading,” says Ms Impey. “Northland and Coromandel are home to dense populations of kiwi but many New Zealanders have no idea that kiwi live where they like to holiday. You never know; there could be one just over the fence from where you’re staying.
“Kiwi are at enormous risk over the summer months because of an influx of tourists and their dogs. We ask dog owners who are traveling to areas where kiwi live over the summer to consider leaving their dog in a kennel or with friends while they’re away.”
Ms Impey understands that leaving dogs at home isn’t always possible or realistic though.
“Dogs are important members of the family for many New Zealanders. Our message to people who want to take their dogs with them on holiday or out and about over the summer is to keep them on a lead when they’re out for a walk, make sure their bach is secure so their dog can’t go wandering, keep them tied up or inside, and obey the signs.”
Lisa Carrington will be taking every precaution with Colin over summer.
“Colin is a cavoodle so at first glance you might assume he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” she says. “But we understand that the bush isn’t his home. It’s the home of vulnerable wildlife like the kiwi.
“Colin is part of our family, but we do everything we can to make sure he doesn’t threaten our wildlife. When we’re going into the bush, we leave him at home. Where we can, we keep him on a lead. And if we see a sign that prohibits dogs, we turn around. We just don’t want to take the risk.”
And that’s the message that Save the Kiwi wants to hammer home these holidays.
“New Zealanders, especially Aucklanders, have had it tough over the last few months, and we’re all hanging out for a break,” says Ms Impey. “We’re asking dog owners to keep their eyes open and remain vigilant as they enjoy their well-deserved holiday.”
Visit www.savethekiwi.nz/holidaying-with-dogs for more information.
About Save the Kiwi
Save the Kiwi works alongside iwi, conservation groups, communities, organisations, and the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai to reverse the decline of the national kiwi population and create more kiwi-safe habitat all over Aotearoa. The not-for-profit works to raise awareness of the kiwi’s plight, how important this taonga is to all New Zealanders’ identities, and what people can do to help.
Save the Kiwi also funds community kiwi conservation groups all over Aotearoa, supports kiwi practitioners with leadership and best-practice, and works with DOC to host the annual National Kiwi Hui. Visit www.savethekiwi.nz for more information.
Key stats & facts about dogs and kiwi
- Kiwi numbers are declining by about 2% annually.
- There are currently approximately 68,000 kiwi across New Zealand.
- Northland and Coromandel are home to dense populations of kiwi.
- DOC estimates that 8 kiwi in the North Island could be killed by dogs every week, which adds up to more than 400 kiwi a year.
What dog owners can do to ensure their dog never meets a kiwi
- Do their research and find out if kiwi live where they’re heading.
- Book a kennel or leave their dog with a friend.
- If owners do take their dog with them, keep them under control at all times.
- Keep them on a lead, ensure your home or bach is well-fenced so they can’t go wandering, and keep them tied up or inside.
- Obey the signs. If a sign says that dogs are prohibited, turn around.
- If in doubt, keep dogs out of the bush altogether.
What to do if your dog attacks a kiwi or if you find a dead kiwi
If your dog injures or kills a kiwi, or if you find an injured or dead kiwi, please call the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai on 0800 DOC HOT.