Introduction

A call for owners to enrol dogs in Kiwi Aversion Training comes after eight deaths in the past five months and threatens one of the most thriving kiwi populations in New Zealand.

Date:  27 July 2018

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Kiwi mauled to death by a dog
Image: Wendy Sporle ©

The Moehau Kiwi Sanctuary is a haven for kiwi and native biodiversity due to the collective efforts of community conservation groups such as Moehau Environment Group (MEG) and support from DOC.

However, wandering dogs, both hunting and pet dogs in the 11,000 ha sanctuary threaten their efforts and has “wiped away thousands of hours of volunteer work and community investment” says MEG’s Chairman, Lettecia Williams. 

DOC and conservation groups are encouraging all dog owners to register their dog for Kiwi Aversion Training and to complete DNA testing to register their dogs’ details into the national K9 DNA register.

Kiwi Aversion Training teaches dogs to avoid kiwi and their nesting areas by using imitation props and guidance from the owner. If a dog show interest in the objects, it gets a short sharp shock to learn that these are things to stay away from. The program seeks to teach dogs to show consistent avoidance behavior, with refresher courses after twelve months or less.

Lettecia Williams who is the Chair of MEG says “The detrimental effects from predation wipes away around twenty years of volunteer work and community investment”.

“The kiwi were part of a breeding programme to grow Coromandel brown kiwi as part of Kiwis for kiwi's strategy to reverse the decline of kiwi by investing in community projects such as Moehau Environment Group. The genetics of these kiwi were to be represented forever in the founder population on Motutapu Island. This is now no longer possible, and is a set back to the programme overall” she said. 

Four of the most recent cases are worrying to DOC as the kiwi transmitters were not attached to a bird. Similarly, two earlier cases where transmitters emitted ‘mortality beeps’ indicating no movement, and upon recovery of the transmitter it was found to be deliberately cut off and removed from the kiwi. Testing of the transmitters and deceased kiwi confirm that a dog DNA was detected, however the dog’s owner was not identified and the case remains unsolved. Positive testing by DNA-based services, EcoGene®, a business unit of Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research have confirmed that five of the eight deaths is the result of dogs. One case is still awaiting results and one other returned inconclusive due to lack of sample.

Operations Manager Nick Kelly who is leading the Task Response says “This is tragic and frustrating loss to our kiwi population on the Coromandel. Frustrating in that these deaths could likely have been avoided if dog owners took responsible and reasonable precautions when visiting our natural spaces. We will be continuing to drive advocacy in a hope to create a better understanding of the impact dogs can have on our native species, and taking a strong stance on owners who are not vigilant with their responsibilities as dog owners with our enforcement and compliance.”

The sanctuary is known for dogs to roam the area and active hunting is present, however, hunters are required to obtain a permit from DOC and stipulates that dogs have successfully completed dog aversion training.

Non-compliance and not obtaining a permit can result in prosecution. The community can report unsupervised or unpermitted dogs via the DOC Hotline on 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 486). This will assist with community conservation and DOC efforts to protect the indigenous biodiversity of the Coromandel.

Dog owners and hunters should plan before entering any forest or wildlife area by checking dog access in different locations, as well as the regulations and preventative actions that owners can take. Dog owners are encouraged to keep an eye out for wildlife and ensure their dog is on a lead at all times when in restricted areas.

Read the New Zealand government legislation around dog control.

About Kiwis for kiwi

Kiwis for kiwi, a fully independent charity, aims to protect kiwi and their natural habitat, ensuring the species flourish for generations to come. It allocates funds to hands-on kiwi projects, raises sponsorship dollars, increases public awareness of the plight of kiwi and works alongside kiwi experts to provide resources, advice and best practice guidance to all those working to save kiwi. In partnership with DOC, Kiwis for kiwi supports the national Kiwi Recovery Programme.

About Moehau Environment Group

Moehau Environment Group is a non-profit volunteer organisation dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the natural environment of the Northern Coromandel Peninsula.

Formed in 2000, and made up of over 100 members, the group partners closely with over 430 landowners, other community conservation groups, DOC, Waikato Regional Council, local schools and iwi to achieve coordinated pest control in the Northern Coromandel.

The eight kiwi deaths are all within MEG’s 350 ha Port Charles Rat Attack and were breeding birds that were part of MEG's Operation Nest Egg run in partnership with Kiwis for kiwi.

Contact

For media enquiries contact:

Phone: +64 4 496 1911
Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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