Introduction

A recently-hatched kiwi chick found in Nelson Lakes National Park just before Christmas has sadly been discovered dead.

A recently-hatched kiwi chick found in Nelson Lakes National Park just before Christmas has sadly been discovered dead.

The park’s Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project kiwi population though is set to be boosted by two BNZ Operation Nest Egg™ chicks which hatched last month at Christchurch’s Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.

The two BNZ Operation Nest Egg™ chicks, which had been taken as eggs from wild pairs in the Gouland Downs area of Kahurangi National Park, are due to be released into the Rotoiti project area in a few months’ time when around three-months-old. The Rotoiti kiwi population includes two other BNZ Operation Nest Egg™ chicks released there last March and now just over a year old.

The dead kiwi chick, just a few weeks old, is thought to have been killed by a predator. The chick was the sixth known to have hatched in the wild in the project area since great spotted kiwi/roroa were reintroduced there more than six and a half years ago as part of BNZ Save the Kiwi. It is the first Rotoiti project kiwi chick to have seemingly died from predation.

DOC Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project Team Leader Grant Harper said it was thought a stoat, possum or weasel may have killed the kiwi chick.

“It was very disappointing to lose the chick but it highlights the damaging impact predators are having on our native wildlife with newborn chicks especially vulnerable. Research has shown more than 90 per cent of North Island brown kiwi chicks born in the wild will be killed by introduced predators before they are one-year-old.

“Our trapping and other pest control, along with that by the Friends of Rotoiti, keeps predator numbers low within the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project area. But the reality is we can’t completely keep all pests out of its unfenced 5000 hectares. A predator that did get past our trap lines has unfortunately encountered the young chick and killed it.

“In reducing predator numbers we are giving wildlife within the project area a better chance of survival and being able to successfully breed young to build their population. Research on kaka has shown they have higher rates of survival and breeding success within the Rotoiti project area than outside it where there is no pest control to protect them from predators.

“Great spotted kiwi chicks are particularly defenceless until they reach 1kg in weight, at around one year of age, when they are big enough to fend off stoats.

“The first two BNZ Operation Nest Egg™ chicks have stayed safe from predators since their release into the project area last March and now weigh around 1.5 kg. The other five juvenile kiwi that hatched in the project area are also now past that weight threshold.”

Grant said it was not expected there would be any other wild-hatched kiwi chicks in the project area this breeding season as no other pairs had shown signs they were incubating an egg.

An adult male kiwi named Takaka was found dead in the project area in September and a pathology report indicated he had been killed by a predator. Given Takaka was a large, strong and feisty bird it would have taken a fairly large animal to kill him. Rangers were concerned to find dog prints around the same time inside the Rotoiti project area.

Takaka was the first adult kiwi to have died of predation in the Rotoiti project area.

There are currently 21 kiwi in the Rotoiti population.

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BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust

BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust was established in November 2002 by Bank of New Zealand, Forest & 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 2010 alone, $880,000 was allocated to community and DOC kiwi projects. More than $5 million has been granted for kiwi work in total. This money came from BNZ, 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 1400 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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