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Zoo celebrates release of 300th kiwi

Zoo celebrates release of 300th kiwi

A noisy little kiwi named Tīhoihoi (Maori for raucous) is today settling in to life on Rotoroa Island, becoming the 300th kiwi chick that Auckland Zoo has successfully incubated, hatched, reared and released to the wild.

The four-week-old male is the first Coromandel North Island brown of the season and the 13th kiwi to be released onto the 83ha pest-free isle, which first began welcoming this rarest of brown kiwi a year ago.

A further 287 Northland brown kiwi chicks have been released since 1996. Some chicks have been released directly onto the mainland in the Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary, but the majority have started life on kiwi crèche, Motuora Island. As adults, these birds have gone on to help re-establish kiwi populations in Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary, Tawharanui, the Brynderwyns and Mataia predator-controlled areas.

“Conservation efforts are always about team work, and when 95% of kiwi chicks die before they reach breeding age in areas without predator control, team work is vital,” says Auckland Zoo field conservation manager, Ian Fraser.

Auckland Zoo has been involved in Operation Nest Egg since the technique was first developed by Department of Conservation (DOC) scientists, funded by the Kiwis for Kiwi (previously) BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust.

“It’s great that through the careful harvest and delivery of eggs by DOC staff and skilled volunteers, combined with the knowledge and dedication of the Zoo’s keepers, we can achieve a 94% success rate from fertile egg to release,” says Mr Fraser. “In protected areas, an Operation Nest Egg kiwi has a 65% chance of reaching adulthood, compared to a 5% survival for chicks toughing it out in unprotected wild areas.”

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Mr Fraser says the more recent initiative between the Zoo, its partners Rotoroa Island Trust (RIT) and Thames Coast Kiwi Care (TCKC) to give Coromandel North Island brown kiwi a head start on Rotoroa, is strongly focused on advocacy for our national bird.

“While we’ll help contribute to growing the Coromandel kiwi population, having kiwi on Rotoroa is primarily about raising awareness about kiwi, demonstrating the value of intensive conservation management and inspiring future generations of New Zealanders to care about kiwi and get involved in helping them.”

More kiwi will be released onto Rotoroa over the coming months, and in March/April 2016, a kiwi muster will see a round-up of the kiwi that were first released on the island in late 2014/early 2015. These sub-adult birds will be returned to the 2,500ha protected area on the Thames Coast cared for by TCKC.

“As expected, these nocturnal birds aren’t showing themselves a lot, but we’re delighted that both Zoo and Rotoroa staff are seeing evidence that kiwi are doing well in the Rotoroa environment," says RIT chairman Barrie Brown.


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