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Rescued kiwi returns to her Far North maunga

Media release

Wednesday October 19, 2016

Wendy Sporle with Owhata, the kiwi she nursed back to health after its leg was caught in a trap

Rescued kiwi returns to her Far North maunga

Round-the-clock rehabilitation has enabled a Northland brown kiwi who suffered life-threatening injuries, after being caught in a leg-hold possum trap, to be returned to her maunga at Mangamuka in the Far North - a happy ending for Save Kiwi Month.

Local hapu, Kiwis for kiwi and the Department of Conservation (DOC) gathered at Mangamuka Marae - 30km south of Kaitaia - to celebrate the release of the adult female kiwi named Owhata back to the wild.

Kaumatua Cyril Chapman said 25 locals, young and old, attended the release ceremony. “It was really important for us as tangata whenua and ahika to reaffirm our roles and responsibilities as a community to support the kaupapa of conservation, to support our ancient bird the kiwi, and to ensure that she’s safe back in the environment she came from.”

A Top Energy worker discovered Owhata caught in a leg-hold possum trap and saved her life by rushing her to Kaitaia vet Lesley Baigent for treatment.

Lesley Baigent says the kiwi was lucky to survive. “She was in a very bad state. She was dehydrated, her foot was cold and she was quiet, which is a bad sign because female kiwis are usually very stroppy.”

Most kiwis caught in leg-hold traps die due to the damage caused to their vascular and neurological systems. Hours after Owhata’s rescue a young male kiwi was found in another leg-hold trap nearby. He was flown to Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital - that treats injured native wildlife - but had to be euthanised as his injuries were too severe.

Fortunately Owhata responded to treatment and, once stabilised, was sent for rehabilitation with Kiwis for kiwi advocate Wendy Sporle, who runs a specialist kiwi treatment facility from her Kaitaia home.

Wendy Sporle, who has been caring for kiwi on a voluntary basis for 30 years, says injured kiwi need round-the-clock attention. They are voracious eaters and Owhata’s diet of worms needed to be supplemented with ox heart chopped into thin slivers to look like worms. “She initially rejected the ox heart so I had to force feed her three times a day and sometimes in the middle of the night. Kiwi are hard to handle, especially when they are injured, and she made an unusual growling sound. Each feeding session took around 90 minutes and was stressful for both of us.”

Wendy Sporle says Owhata’s intensive 12-day rehabilitation took a lot of time, energy and emotion but seeing her returned to her natural habitat made all of the effort worthwhile. “I really care about kiwi and acknowledge just how special they are. It’s vital that we all learn how to better protect them from both dogs and traps.”

DOC Kaitaia Operations Manager David Neho says they have located the young man who set the trap that caught Owhata. “He is devastated, so hopefully positive lessons can be learnt from a bad situation. People need to be aware that kiwi can be living anywhere and that leg-hold traps must never be placed on the ground. To keep kiwi safe, traps should always be raised at least 70cm off the ground.”

For more information about Save Kiwi Month head to

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