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Just in time for Conservation Week (12 – 19 September), the world’s rarest kiwi hatches undamaged in the midst of Christchurch’s earthquakes.

Date:  12 September 2010

Just in time for Conservation Week (12 - 19 September), the world’s rarest kiwi hatches undamaged in the midst of Christchurch’s earthquakes.

This is the first kiwi hatch of the 2010 season at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve as part of BNZ Operation Nest Egg. It comes after a 7.1 earthquake hit the South Island and gives another boost to the critically endangered rowi kiwi population.

Kate Wilkinson helps clean Rickter. Photo: Iain Graham.
Kate Wilkinson helps clean Rickter

“Our first egg hatch this year is one breakage that is a welcome relief after the recent quakes,” says Minister of Conservation, Kate Wilkinson.

Immediately after being shaken out of bed by the September 4 earthquake, Corry-Ann Langford, Manger of Willowbank’s hatching facilities, rushed into work to check on the eggs and ensure the generator was started.

“Although they had rolled around a bit, the incubator’s ribbed, rubber matting had kept them safe,” Corry-Ann explains. “We’ve increased the padding to protect them during the aftershocks and they seem to be continuing to develop fine. Fingers crossed, we’ve had no losses!”
Staff at Willowbank have nick-named the chick Rickter. They are currently caring for 17 kiwi eggs from the two most endangered kiwi – rowi and Haast tokoeka – both found on New Zealand’s West Coast.

Rickter, the rowi kiwi chick. Photo: Iain Graham.
Rickter, the rowi kiwi chick

Thanks to support from BNZ Save the Kiwi, Department of Conservation staff have been able to dramatically increase rowi numbers with the aim of doubling the population to 600 by 2018.

BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust executive director, Michelle Impey says Willowbank’s quick action taken in checking and potentially saving Rickter and his cousins’ lives during last weekend’s earthquake is a testament to their dedication.

"Rowi is the rarest kiwi species on earth, and every single egg is so valuable. Thanks to the quick actions of the Canterbury facility’s staff, Rickter, the first rowi chick of the season lives to tell the tale; a wonderful story among the trauma."

BNZ Operation Nest Egg involves removing kiwi eggs and chicks from the wild, hatching and rearing them in safe locations and returning them to the wild once they are large enough to defend themselves (around 1 kg) from introduced predators.

Like all rowi chicks born at Willowbank, Rickter will be transferred to the safe crèche island of Motuara in the Marlborough Sounds where he will grow up without the threat of stoats. He’ll return home to Ōkārito Kiwi Zone – just north-west of Franz Josef, on the West Coast – in about a year’s time.

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