Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 

Introduction

Darkstar, a young kiwi accidentally hit by a car in Northland in early May, leaves Auckland Zoo for her forest home on the Tutukaka Coast today, following two months of successful treatment in a cast for a badly fractured foot.

Date:  15 July 2010

Darkstar, a young kiwi accidently hit by a car in Northland in early May, leaves Auckland Zoo for her forest home on the Tutukaka Coast today, following two months of successful treatment in a cast for a badly fractured foot.

A Bank of New Zealand Operation Nest Egg (O.N.E.) kiwi, Darkstar was hatched at the Zoo in September 2007 and then released onto kiwi crèche Motuora Island.  Last October Department of Conservation (DOC) staff relocated her with eight other O.N.E. kiwi to the Tutakaka Landcare Coalition conservation area.  In late April, the adventurous bird travelled 7km southeast of landowner Mike Camm’s property – where she encountered a main road and was subsequently hit.

Darkstar in cast with Auckland Zoo vet John Potter. Photo: Auckland Zoo.
Darkstar in a cast with Auckland Zoo
vet John Potter

Thanks to the quick-thinking action of locals, Amanda and Roger Jones, who chased and caught her after hitting her and then drove her to the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre, Darkstar’s life was saved.  

The Zoo’s New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine vet, Dr John Potter, says Darkstar’s foot is completely healed and she’s now fully weight bearing. Having eaten well during her stay, at just under 2kg, she’s also very healthy and strong.

“The muscles in her foot will need to build up again, and she’ll have a bit of a limp for a couple of months. However, judging by the speed she moved at when we placed her in one of our outside yards last Thursday after removing her cast, I think we can safely say, she’ll cope very well,” says Dr Potter.

DOC kiwi ranger, Pete Graham, says Amanda and Roger Jones, who initially thought they had a hit a possum, did exactly the right things on the evening of the accident.

“For anyone who thinks they’ve hit a kiwi, the best thing to do is to stop the car and get out and check. Please don’t reverse back as you may hit it. If it’s injured, put it somewhere warm and quiet, then get in touch with DOC, a vet, or your local bird recovery centre. Even if the kiwi doesn’t survive, please do let us know,” says Mr Graham.

Mr Graham advises motorists to be on the lookout for kiwi signs on the road, and drive carefully through kiwi areas, especially at night, and says it’s worth remembering, if you see something on the road, it’s not necessarily a possum.

Prior to her release, Darkstar will be fitted with a radio transmitter that will enable both DOC and landowner Mike Camm to follow her closely over the coming months.

Bank of New Zealand Save the Kiwi Trust executive director Michelle Impey, says given the right conditions, kiwi can live over 50 years, and produce about 100 eggs.

“While Darkstar has been injured, she’s still young and healthy and in a pest-free environment thanks to the work of the Tutukaka Landcare Coalition, so she could go on to make a valuable contribution to the North Island brown kiwi population,” says Ms Impey.

Background information

Other significant kiwi challenges in Northland

  • Darkstar is a Northland brown kiwi - brown kiwi are one of five species of kiwi in New Zealand and the only species still occurring naturally on the North Island mainland
  • Brown kiwi are estimated at around 25,000 today - 8000 of these in Northland.  While this seems quite a lot, they have severely declined over the previous century, and would have numbered in the hundreds of thousands not long ago.
  • In Northland, dogs are the biggest threat to adult brown kiwi, even in managed populations.
  • People are the key to reducing this threat – kiwi management agencies and groups need community help to save kiwi from dogs.
  • Unmanaged populations decline around 3 per cent per year.
  • Another key agent of decline is stoats, which kill most of the chicks produced each year.  Only 5 per cent of chicks make it to adulthood in unmanaged sites.
  • Control of stoats in managed populations in Northland has been highly successful, seeing local kiwi populations increase for the first time.
  • Saving kiwi is not DOC business alone - in particular in Northland, many landowners, community groups and trusts are working to protect the species.
  • Everyone can assist - drive carefully in kiwi areas and keep your dog under control at all times, in all places.

Auckland Zoo and Bank of New Zealand Save the Kiwi Operation Nest Egg

  • Auckland Zoo joined the BNZ Operation Nest Egg programme in 1996 in partnership with BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and other wildlife facilities.
  • The parties work together to give our endangered national bird a better chance of survival in the wild by incubating and hatching wild laid eggs.
  • To date, Auckland Zoo has hatched, reared and released 202 kiwi chicks.

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Contact

Find out more about kiwi

Contact:

Amy Cameron, Media Officer
Ph: +64 9 307 4846 or 0275 111 222
Email: acameron@doc.govt.nz

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