Introduction

Cute as a button and lucky to be alive, a Haast Tokoeka kiwi chick has cheated certain death thanks to an intricate operation at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch.

Date:  02 October 2009

Cute as a button and lucky to be alive, a Haast Tokoeka kiwi chick has cheated certain death thanks to an intricate operation at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch.

Trapped and unable to turn its beak inside the egg, “Button” was badly positioned and unable to get its beak into the vital air cell at the other end of the egg needed to hatch.

It was the equivalent of a breach birth and without intervention the outcome was certain death.

Zoologist Corry-Ann Langford took on the nerve-wracking job of opening a gap in the shell just big enough to cut through layers of delicate membranes riddled with vital blood vessels so that Button’s beak could reach the air.

After several hours of intense work Button was breathing, no blood vessels had been severed and there were hugs all round the kiwi hatching facility.

“It was such a relief after such a stressful process to see the chick was breathing,” Corry-Ann said.

Still in the shell, Button spent another two days absorbing the egg yolk before Corry-Ann removed the remaining shell one tiny piece at a time using tweezers and a whole lot of patience.

Button is one of 11 kiwi eggs and two chicks that the Department of Conservation has rescued from the Haast Tokoeka Kiwi Sanctuary so far this breeding season using BNZ Operation Nest Egg.

Corry-Ann said that Button was a very lucky kiwi chick having been removed from the wild where 90 per cent of kiwi chicks are killed by stoats and then surviving an impossible hatch that would have killed it without intervention.

“It’s definitely a chick that can thank the BNZ Save the Kiwi and the New Zealand Conservation Trust who set up the kiwi facility for us here at Willowbank,” she said.

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