Huge rowi return marks a reversal in fortunes of rare kiwi species
Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication.
IntroductionThe rare rowi kiwi reclaimed valuable territory in north Ōkārito forest in the largest ever release of the species by the Department of Conservation today.
Date: 21 October 2010
The rare rowi kiwi reclaimed valuable territory in north Ōkārito forest in the largest ever release of the species by the Department of Conservation today.
In a public ceremony led by Te Runanga o Makaawhio, the kaitiaki (guardians) of rowi, the birds were blessed as school students and volunteers gathered to watch.
Upokorunanga, Te Runanga o Makaawhio, Richard Wallace, thanked Te Papa Atawhai (DOC) and BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust for working on behalf of all New Zealanders to protect “this taonga”.
“Although my speech is small, the feeling I have for what is happening today is huge,” said Richard.
DOC BNZ Operation Nest Egg ranger,
Iain Graham with one of the young rowi
The 35 birds were then driven into Ōkārito forest where 20 of them were introduced back into territory that the last kiwi retreated from over 20 years ago.
“This expansion of their home territory is a massive milestone for the critically endangered birds,” says Jim Livingstone, DOC’s Rowi Project Manager.
“Thanks to BNZ Operation Nest Egg, the department is increasing the species’ numbers pretty consistently, meaning we’re now in a position to help these birds claim back old habitats.”
“Things have been bleak for rowi. Birds were gradually pushed further and further south until they were backed up against the Waiho River - which they were unable to cross. It’s just good luck that they were left with a last section of forest to prevent the species from dying out completely,” he says.
Over the years rowi numbers have plummeted. Predators and loss of habitat meant they simply disappeared from many places and until they were reduced to just one population within 11,000 hectares in south Ōkārito forest, north-west of Franz Josef. This month that trend will be reversed, as the first birds are introduced back into forest on the northern side of Ōkārito Lagoon.
“This year we’re increasing the population by an incredible 10 per cent! Rowi are a success story for kiwi conservation and provide a picture of hope for what we can achieve,” says Michelle Impey, Executive Director of the BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust who have been a key player in the species’ recovery.
“It’s extremely encouraging that, thanks to public support, we are able to witness a turn around in the fortunes of rowi.”
After having been removed as eggs as part of BNZ Operation Nest Egg these birds were hatched at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch and then raised on a predator-free island in the Marlborough Sounds. The young kiwi are now large enough to defend themselves (around 1 kg) against their main predators—stoats.
They will be closely monitored by DOC using cutting-edge tracking equipment, to see how they fare in this new territory.