A New Zealand inspired burger chain operating in the UK, is the latest addition to the Whakatane Kiwi Trust’s corporate partners. From April 2010 Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) customers will make a voluntary donation of 25p from every Kiwiburger sold in their UK restaurants to help the Whakatane Kiwi Trust to protect New Zealand’s iconic Kiwi.
In 2001 three New Zealand backpackers started GBK, which is described as a ‘posh burger’ company, and has since established restaurants throughout mainland UK. New Zealand celebrity chef, Peter Gordon, assisted with the development of the restaurants’ menu, which includes boutique New Zealand wines. Managing Director of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, David Sykes said that they were very proud of their New Zealand heritage and considered it appropriate that part of Kiwiburger proceeds go towards a New Zealand Kiwi conservation project.
Mr Sykes said that most of the work done by the Whakatane Kiwi Trust, including predator control, kiwi aversion training for dogs, fund raising and publicity, was undertaken by volunteers. He said, “helping the Trust to support its volunteers and to provide training and equipment directly contributes to the well-being of Kiwi.”
“The Trust’s volunteer predator trapping programme in the local bush reserves is absolutely vital to the survival of Kiwi as it helps to control stoats, weasels, ferrets, rats and feral cats, which are a serious threat to young Kiwi,” said Mr Sykes.
Cat Kebbeh, Head of Marketing at Gourmet Burger Kitchen said that GBK was looking forward to developing a long-term relationship with the Whakatane Kiwi Trust and watching Kiwi flourish in Whakatane.
Whakatane Kiwi Trust chairperson, Lorraine Brill, said that the GBK partnership was fantastic – “It will enable us to do even more ‘hands on’ work that will benefit Kiwi.”
Mrs Brill said, “Although Kiwi numbers are steeply declining around New Zealand, we have a slowly expanding resident wild Kiwi population in Whakatane. We have even had Kiwi wander into people’s gardens and have ‘Kiwi Crossing’ signs on the roads to warn motorists to watch out for Kiwi. Where else in the world can you be in your own backyard and hear Kiwi calling?”
Mike Jones, Community Relations Ranger for Department of Conservation (DOC) was also very pleased with the news. “For a flightless bird, Whakatane Kiwi have spread their wings far and wide. To have a UK based company supporting a community conservation project in Whakatane goes to show what an amazing job the Whakatane Kiwi Trust are doing.”
During the last ten years, the Whakatane Kiwi Project, together with the Whakatane community, Ngati Awa iwi, businesses, Councils, DOC and the Whakatane Kiwi Trust have worked to increase the wild Kiwi population from just a handful of Kiwi to more than 100. The Kiwi live in the native bush reserves on the fringes of the town and during their breeding season (April to July) they are easily heard, from the town centre and local homes, calling for their mates.
It is very hard to raise a Kiwi chick and fewer than five percent of chicks left in the wild survive as introduced predators including stoats, ferrets, rats, cats and dogs, kill most. To protect the Kiwi chicks, the eggs are removed from the nests in the burrows and incubated at Kiwi Encounter’s chick-rearing facility in Rotorua. The chicks are returned to the bush reserves when they weigh just over 1kg (2.2lbs) and are able to defend themselves against smaller predators like stoats and rats.
The Trust’s many volunteers maintain the trapping lines for these smaller predators. However, larger predators like cats and dogs, including domestic pets, are potentially the most destructive to any kiwi population and so the Trust carries out community education and provides Kiwi aversion training courses for all dogs. In as little as ten minutes, a dog can be taught to leave Kiwi alone.