Kiwi deaths a setback for Pukaha restoration efforts
Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication.
IntroductionWork towards establishing a self-sustaining population of kiwi at Pukaha Mount Bruce has suffered a setback with four of the birds in the forest falling victim to a ferret attack.
Date: 27 July 2010
Work towards establishing a self-sustaining population of kiwi at Pukaha Mount Bruce has suffered a setback with four of the birds in the forest falling victim to a ferret attack.
Among them were three of the 30 North Island brown kiwi transferred from Hauturu/Little Barrier Island to the forest in May.
Signals from transmitters attached to the birds led to discovery of the deaths during last week.
When all four birds were found to have injuries consistent with a mustelid attack, extra traps targeting ferrets were deployed in the area where the kiwi were found. A Massey University pathology report concurred that the culprit was likely to be a ferret. The trapping effort paid off when a large male ferret was caught in the vicinity.
The ferret caught after discovery
of the predated kiwi
Pukaha Mount Bruce Board chair Bob Francis says while the deaths were sad they highlighted the challenges of returning kiwi to the wild. Despite the setback, the Board was determined to continue the forest restoration efforts.
“Predators are common in all forest areas and while we will have losses, we will continue to make significant gains as well. That’s why it’s important to build a population large enough to absorb occasional losses.”
Department of Conservation Wairarapa Area Manager Chris Lester said the department continued to have confidence in its pest control programme.
“But the reality of managing kiwi and other species such as kokako and kaka in un-fenced reserves is that these predation events are inevitable. With the generous ongoing support of the community and the dedicated effort of staff and volunteers we are making good progress in re-establishing species previously lost from the Pukaha Forest”
The 30 translocated 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.
Department of Conservation Programme Manager Biodiversity Bruce Vander Lee said the 30 translocated kiwi were all fitted with transmitters.“This enables us to keep tabs on them without catching or disturbing them, which is important in the early stages while they’re settling into their new home.”
A plan to re-capture all of the kiwi for their first health check had been under way for a week and Mr Vander Lee says “the birds we’d captured had made impressive weight gains and were in extremely good condition”.
When mortality signals were received from several birds, the health checks had to be suspended while staff recovered the dead kiwi and hunted for the culprit responsible.
The recent addition of the 30 kiwi from Hauturu/Little Barrier Island is part of a long term plan to build a population that will be capable of withstanding losses from time to time.