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


Although young and still new to the job, Nelson Lakes kiwi dog Fen is showing flair for finding kiwi, surprising Department of Conservation staff with a new kiwi chick.

Date:  13 July 2010

Although young and still new to the job, Nelson Lakes kiwi dog Fen is showing flair for finding kiwi, surprising Department of Conservation staff with a new kiwi chick.

The kiwi chick is the fifth known to have hatched in the wild in Nelson Lakes National Park’s Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project since great spotted kiwi/roroa were first reintroduced there six years ago as part of BNZ Save the Kiwi.

Tracking kiwi scent, Fen led DOC rangers to a burrow where to their amazement and delight they found the chick with its parents. The chick is thought to be about seven-months-old.

“The chick was a complete surprise,” said DOC ranger Nik Joice. “We weren’t expecting to find a chick as we didn’t think any had hatched over the last breeding season.

DOC Nelson Lakes ranger, Sarah Forder, with a newly-found kiwi chick.
DOC Nelson Lakes ranger, Sarah
Forder, with a newly-found kiwi chick

“Discovering chicks bred in the wild is significant as it is a good sign a breeding great spotted kiwi population can be successfully re-established in the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project.”

Nik said DOC staff were very pleased with the aptitude Fen, a two-year-old short-haired German pointer, was showing as a newly-trained kiwi dog. As well as locating the chick, his kiwi-seeking skills had also that same day helpfully tracked down two adults that had dropped their radio-transmitters, including the chick’s father Onahau. This enabled DOC rangers to put on new transmitters to continue tracking their movements.   

“Fen’s doing really well for such a young dog and he is obedient which makes him very good to work with,” said Nik.

The Rotoiti kiwi population includes two other chicks around seven months of age that are now over 1 kilogram in weight so large enough to fend off attacks from stoats.

The two are among three that in March were the first BNZ Operation Nest Egg™ chicks brought in to boost the kiwi population. They had been taken as been taken as eggs from Kahurangi National Park and hatched at Christchurch’s Willowbank Wildlife Reserve before going to the Rotoiti project area where intensive pest control is carried out over 5000 hectares to protect native species.

The third chick was found dead 11 days after its arrival at Rotoiti and is thought to have died as a result of illness though pathology tests had been unable to confirm what had caused its ill-health.

“It was sad to lose the chick but importantly it had no apparent signs of predation” said Nik. The main risk to the chicks had been stoat predation but the fact none have fallen victim to stoats indicates our trapping may be sufficient to protect chicks on their own without parents.”

The Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project kiwi population now numbers 22. It includes 15 adults moved to the area from Kahurangi National Park, five young kiwi known to have hatched in the project area, and the two BNZ Operation Nest Egg™ chicks.

BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust

BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust was established in November 2002 by Bank of New Zealand, Forest and Bird and the Department of Conservation, building on a sponsorship relationship that started in 1991. BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust is responsible for public awareness and education, fundraising, sponsorship and grant allocations for kiwi recovery nationally. In 2009 alone, nearly $1 million was allocated to community and DOC kiwi projects. This money came from Bank of New Zealand, its staff, customers and supporters of BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust.

BNZ Operation Nest Egg™ is a powerful tool to reverse the decline of key kiwi populations. Eggs and chicks are harvested from nests to save them from stoats and cats. The young kiwi are returned to the wild when they weight about 1kg, big enough to fight off these predators. More than 1200 kiwi chicks have been returned to the wild since the programme began in 1994, with captive facilities and hundreds of field workers from DOC and community groups throughout the country contributing to its success.

The BNZ Operation Nest Egg™ egg harvesting>chick rearing>return to the wild technique was developed for kiwi through research funded solely by Bank of New Zealand and is now also used in other species recovery programmes.

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Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project

DOC media liaison

Trish Grant, phone +63 3 546 3146

DOC national kiwi information:

Avi Holzapfel, phone +64 7 858 0019

Bank of New Zealand Save the Kiwi Trust:

Michelle Impey, phone +64 9 375 1084 or 029 478 4610

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