A strapping young Northland brown kiwi has been released into his new home supported by the name Ritchie McKiwi.
Bestowed on the bird by students at Purua School, near the Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary, the name celebrates the Rugby World Cup as well as the kiwi’s sturdy countenance.
At a year old, Ritchie McKiwi weighs in at over 1300 grams, a size which outfits him to ward off predators such as cats and stoats as well as discover life in the wild.
Ritchie was hatched last year on Matakohe-Limestone Island and found living in a borrowed burrow – a penguin box – when a transmitter was attached to track him prior to his release.
Department of Conservation (DOC) staff joined Purua School students at Ritchie’s “kick off” into his new life at Alisons Farm, with farm owners, Alex and Charlene Alison.
DOC kiwi ranger Paul Cornille says the release is also significant because it celebrates bringing new kiwi life to Purua, where dogs have killed 13 birds in recent years. One of these, named Grinch, spent part of his life as a juvenile on the Alisons Farm property.
“Having monitored Grinch from his time as a chick, it’s tragic he survived to adulthood only to be killed by a dog in a kiwi reserve. There’s absolutely no need for these kinds of incidents – if people control their dogs most of our kiwi will survive quite happily without help.”
Working with local communities to develop a better understanding of the threat dogs pose to kiwi is a key to increasing the livelihood of birds like Ritchie, Mr Cornille says.
“It was fantastic having all the students at Purua School with us for Ritchie’s release and we encourage them to talk to their parents and friends about how important keeping dogs away from kiwi is. Any dog can kill a kiwi, but it doesn’t have to happen.”
Elsewhere in New Zealand, brown kiwi live to be 40 to 65, but in Northland the average age is 14 because of dogs.