In the “Taxon plan for Northland brown kiwi

Kiwi are a taonga to Māori and are much revered within New Zealand culture, yet despite their high profile and iconic status, kiwi are in serious decline. Though they were once widespread throughout New Zealand, their abundance and distribution have been severely reduced as a consequence of human settlement. The ongoing effects of habitat loss, land development, and species introductions have led to the continuing decline of kiwi. Despite positive gains in managed populations, kiwi remain at small population size and/or in decline overall, thus all kiwi taxa are classified as threatened.

Kiwi are endemic to New Zealand. They have unique characteristics including nostrils positioned at the end of their long bill, vestigial wings with no practical function, no external tail, and the production of one of the largest known eggs in relation to body size for birds. The kiwi has been described as the most un-birdlike bird in the world (Hutching 1998), having many traits closer to mammalian species than birds, including the presence of bone marrow, lowered body temperature, hair-like feathers, facial bristles and an acute sense of smell.

There are currently five recognised species of kiwi: brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli); rowi (A. rowi); tokoeka (A. australis); great spotted kiwi (A. haastii); and little spotted kiwi (A. owenii; Burbridge et al. 2003). Within brown kiwi there are four genetically distinct and geographically isolated taxa. These are located in Northland (Northland and Auckland regions), Coromandel, Eastern North Island (Hawke’s Bay, East Cape and Bay of Plenty to Rotorua) and Western North Island (Waikato, King Country, Central Plateau, Taranaki and Whanganui).

At approximately 8000 individuals, the Northland brown kiwi population accounts for almost one third of the estimated 25 000 brown kiwi in New Zealand (Holzapfel et al. 2008). These 8000 kiwi inhabit 25 population clusters throughout Northland (Pierce et al. 2006), including populations on offshore islands and at Tawharanui Open Sanctuary. Kiwi conservation programmes in Northland are on both public and private land, and there is huge community responsibility for, and involvement in, kiwi protection. The ability to sustain kiwi populations in Northland is increasing as more tangata whenua, individuals and community groups take on kiwi protection.

The Northland brown kiwi taxon plan is the first such plan to guide the conservation of this taxon. Kiwi in Northland face unique threats and challenges, and the geographically disjointed populations of kiwi in Northland warrant separate management from other brown kiwi (Herbert & Daugherty 2002). This taxon plan is a practical guide for the Department of Conservation (DOC) and all groups, individuals and agencies involved in the recovery of Northland brown kiwi. The plan provides a planning framework and context for recovery planning. It also examines the current conservation status of Northland brown kiwi, the management and monitoring techniques currently underway, and the options for halting any further decline and for restoring the species in its historical range.

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