Hunt for kiwi killer continues after more deaths
Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication.
IntroductionA further five dead kiwi have been discovered in the Pukaha Mount Bruce Forest, following four kiwi deaths late last month, and the capture of a large male ferret.
Date: 09 August 2010 Source: Pukaha Mount Bruce
A further five dead kiwi have been discovered in the Pukaha Mount Bruce Forest, following four kiwi deaths late last month, and the capture of a large male ferret.
The male ferret was caught following the discovery of the first four dead kiwi near the 940-hectare forest’s northern perimeter, and after urgent steps were taken to prevent further kiwi losses.
The five kiwi were recovered over the past week following mortality signals from radio transmitters attached to the birds. All showed signs of predator attack.
This brings the total recent loss to nine, of which six are from the population of thirty North Island brown kiwi transferred from Hauturu/Little Barrier Island in May.
“Despite our year-round intensive pest control programme and additional trapping activity since the first four attacks, we are facing a real challenge to put a stop to this,” said Pukaha Mount Bruce Board chair Bob Francis.
“Immediately following the first wave of attacks, DOC pulled in extra staff and resources including specialised staff and expert advisors, trained dog teams and extra traps to assist in tracking the killer,” Mr Francis said. “We are throwing absolutely everything we can into the effort to catch what is likely to be the female partner of the ferret caught earlier.”
Mr Francis said the pest management programme at Pukaha was ‘best practice’ with the density of trapping more than twice the national standard for controlling predators. There were already 130 kms of trap lines, 540 traps targeting ferrets, stoats and weasels, and more than 1,000 bait stations aimed at rats and possums.
Department of Conservation Wairarapa Area Manager, Chris Lester, said, “Extra staff have been brought in, and ‘control’ baits have been replaced in the short-term with bait targeted more specifically at a ferret. Every aspect of the programme is being assessed, but the immediate priority is to catch the culprit.”
“Prior to the loss of these kiwi, as part of our commitment to best practice, we commissioned the first of an ongoing series of independent expert reviews to ensure the Pukaha pest management programme remains of the highest possible standard,” said Mr Lester. “The review was conducted prior to the July kiwi deaths and we expect the report within days.”
Predator control of the pastures bordering the Pukaha reserve is also important to keeping the forest safe for kiwi and other birds. Mr Lester said Horizons and Greater Wellington Regional Councils worked closely with DOC to maintain a buffer zone.
Mr Francis said the kiwi deaths starkly highlighted the challenges of returning kiwi to the mainland. “Creating an unfenced sanctuary is an ambitious but necessary programme to ensure long-term self-sustaining populations of kiwi on the mainland. While the losses are significantly lower than happen in the wild, we want to protect these birds and are determined to catch the killer.”
Studies show nine out of 10 kiwi born in the wild will die within their first year, without supporting pest control.
Pukaha Mount Bruce has a captive breeding programme which maximises survival in the first year. Eggs are recovered from nests and hatched in the kiwi house, with young only being released into the forest at 9-12 months or when they have gained one kilogram of weight.
The 30 recently-introduced kiwi had been closely monitored since their release and they appeared to have settled well. They had been establishing territories and several appeared to have found mates in readiness for the breeding season.
Pukaha Mount Bruce Board
+64 6 377 0447, +64 27 444 7677
Wairarapa Area Manager
Department of Conservation
+64 6 377 0700, +64 27 221 7166