Date: 18 July 2009
Sending your young ones off to preschool is hard for any parent, even when they are kiwi chicks, discovered Associate Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson.
The Minister met with New Zealand Conservation Trust staff as they were saying their anxious farewells to the great-spotted kiwi/roroa chicks they had raised from eggs as they left to learn some vital life skills.
“Before these chicks can be released into the wild, they must go into a crèche for the winter to learn how to fend for themselves,” said Ms Wilkinson.
But the team are extra anxious as, in a first for Christchurch, the juveniles are being placed inside the predator-free enclosure at Riccarton Bush. Here they will learn how to forage for food and nest in burrows, until they are big enough to be released into the wild, and the worst of the winter weather has passed.
The kiwi juveniles, range in age from 4-7 months old. They were hatched from eggs recovered from the Hurunui and Hawdon valleys as part of the Bank of New Zealand Operation Nest Egg™ (ONE) programme, sponsored by the BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust.
Staff from the New Zealand Conservation Trust incubated and hatched the eggs at their specialist facility at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.
Once the chicks are large enough to protect themselves from stoats, their primary predator in the wild, they will be released into Arthur’s Pass National Park.
As Riccarton Bush is the only predator-free enclosure in a natural setting in Canterbury, it is being used as a temporary measure. A purpose-designed enclosure is being developed to accommodate increasing numbers of kiwi juveniles in the future.
“The people of Christchurch will be key to the success of this kiwi crèche. We ask all visitors to keep to the tracks and keep all dogs out.
“All kiwi are protected as their populations are in decline, so it’s a real honour to have them virtually in our backyard, but don’t expect to see them during their stay here,” said Ms Wikinson.
“Places for the public to see kiwi in Christchurch include Willowbank, the Southern Aquarium and Orana Wildlife Park.”
Resident Riccarton Bush caretaker John Moore is confident that the enclosure is safe from predators and the public will respect kiwi being there.
“In fact the public will neither see not hear them as they sleep during the day and the enclosure is locked at night when they’ll be out foraging for food.
“Dogs are the biggest threat to these birds as they can easily sniff them out. Kiwi of any age are defenceless against dogs and it would be heartbreaking to lose these young ones before they even get a chance to have a go at surviving in the wild,” said Mr Moore.