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


No kiwi have died since the capture of a ferret last week at Pukaha Mount Bruce in northern Wairarapa, but Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers remain on alert.

Date:  19 August 2010

No kiwi have died since the capture of a ferret last week at Pukaha Mount Bruce in northern Wairarapa, but Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers remain on alert.

A pathology report on the ferret is inconclusive as to whether it had swallowed kiwi, however the distance between the animal’s canine teeth was compatible with the bite marks found on the bodies.

The ferret – and one killed a week earlier – now appear to be responsible for the deaths of 12 kiwi. As of last week the count was nine, but three further bodies were found during the tracking exercises being carried out. However, these three kiwi were shown to have died before the ferret was killed.

DOC Wairarapa Area manager Chris Lester said he was very happy with the way his team had responded so quickly to the kiwi deaths, but extraordinary efforts to keep them safe would continue.

A ferret captured at Pukaha Mount Bruce. Photo: Rosemary Vander Lee.
Ferret caught at Pukaha Mount Bruce

“Immediately following the first wave of attacks, we pulled in extra resources including expert advisors, trained dog teams and extra traps. The dog teams haven’t found any new ferret activity in the reserve, so we’re pulling them out now, but the additional intensive trapping programme will continue.

"The kiwi breeding season is about to start so it’s imperative that we keep the birds as safe as we possibly can.”

Pukaha Mount Bruce is an unfenced 942ha sanctuary managed by DOC on behalf of the Pukaha Mount Bruce Board and in partnership with The National Wildlife Centre Trust and Rangitane o Wairarapa. The vision is to restore the forest’s legendary dawn chorus by re-introducing, protecting and breeding native species.

Pukaha Mount Bruce Board Chairman Bob Francis said the project was an ambitious one but in the main was proving successful.

“We have now got more than 100 wild kaka flying free since we introduced nine birds in 1996. We’ve got 35 kokako with more on the way. Managing this in a fenceless reserve is ambitious and difficult, but it’s working. We expect to get setbacks like the death of these kiwi, as unfortunately New Zealand is swarming with introduced predators. But we won’t be deterred.”

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 1000 bait stations aimed at rats and possums.

Prior to the kiwi deaths, as part of DOC’s commitment to best practice it commissioned an independent expert review to ensure the pest management programme is of the highest standard. The results of this review are being looked at and any improvements that can be made will be acted on as soon as possible.

“We understand when people get upset when kiwi die, but no-one is more upset than us,” said Mr Lester. “We’re here every day working on behalf of the kiwi and the other native species, using the latest technologies and science to ensure we’re as efficient as we can be, and for the main part, they are doing really well. But we’ll take a close look at our practices, and if there is anything that can be improved, we’ll do it.”

Unfounded rumours that the kiwis were killed by 1080 poison, used to control possums and other predators in New Zealand, are untrue. All the deaths were confirmed as ferret attacks. In addition, there has been no poison (laid in bait traps) in the area for several months, kiwi are unable to access the bait traps, and of 200 kiwi tracked by DOC through 1080 operations across the country, not one has been lost to the poison.

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