Date: 08 February 2010
Source: Office of the Minister of Conservation
Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson is calling on the public to help put an end to the series of apparently deliberately-lit fires on the West Coast that is putting the resurgence of New Zealand's rarest kiwi at risk.
Firefighters and Department of Conservation staff battled five fires over the weekend and into today. All were lit in the Ōkārito Kiwi Sanctuary, home to the endangered rowi and part of Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
"It's an absolute disgrace that anyone would deliberately set fire to bush in a kiwi sanctuary.
"There are only about 350 rowi in total in New Zealand and DOC staff have been working incredibly hard to increase this population.
"It's difficult enough protecting these iconic birds from predators without having to worry about arsonists.
"Two pairs of rowi have home ranges that overlap the fire zones but thankfully they have today been found alive.
"If it wasn't for the quick response by local Franz Josef fire-fighters, the helicopter crew and the Department's own fire response teams the blaze could very quickly have threatened many more rowi territories - with a much greater likelihood of birds being killed.
"I can only ask all West Coast locals to help DOC protect the sanctuary by keeping a close eye on the area and reporting any suspicious behaviour to police."
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