Date: 03 September 2020
How the battered bird got into the culvert in early August remains a mystery, but he owes his survival to two roading inspectors from infrastructure company Downer, and the combined efforts of rangers from the Department of Conservation's New Plymouth office, the New Plymouth Veterinary Group and veterinary specialists at Massey University's Wildbase Hospital in Palmerston North.
Downer Junior Network Inspector Logan Turner was with his colleague Isaak Ryan inspecting culverts on behalf of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency on State Highway 3 near Tongaporutu. At first glance Isaak Ryan didn't spot the beleaguered bird, but the pair were surprised when a second look revealed the kiwi and its plight.
"It was the first time I'd seen a kiwi in real life, so it was pretty cool. I have never come across wildlife while inspecting culverts before," Logan Turner says.
After contacting their supervisor, the two men called the DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) to alert DOC to the predicament of the kiwi and offer information on the tools needed to remove the metal grate and access the bird.
Clad in overalls and wearing elbow-length bird-handling gloves, DOC Ranger Alison Evans clambered into sump leading off the culvert and plucked the kiwi from its predicament.
"It didn't have any objection to being picked up and seemed almost relieved to be rescued. It was underweight, cold and suffering from exhaustion," Alison Evans says.
"The culvert was a pretty inhospitable place to be imprisoned, with large trucks travelling past at open road speeds only a few metres away and water at the bottom of the sump."
It wasn't leg-banded or microchipped, suggesting it was a wild kiwi and not bred in captivity or released into the conservation area.
The emaciated and battered bird was transported to Massey University's Wildbase Hospital, where staff commenced immediate treatment to keep it alive.
Wildbase Supervisor Technician Pauline Nijman says the kiwi had been trying to escape to no avail and the nails on each of his feet were worn down to the bone.
So far the kiwi has had several weeks of care, including several "pedicures" to clean the nail and bone, x-rays and blood samples.
"This kiwi is such a fighter! We are happy to report the little superstar is eating well in hospital and after the first week – when it was touch and go - he has started to venture around his room, exercise, forage and gain some much needed weight. But it's going to be a long journey," Pauline Nijman says.
It will be several weeks before Wildbase vets will know if the kiwi has a chance of long-term survival. If he can be released back into the wild, DOC will liaise with iwi on arrangements.
Alison Evans says she's very grateful the staff from Downer took the initiative to call 0800 DOC HOT when they saw the kiwi was in trouble.
"We all have an obligation to watch out for injured native wildlife and this kiwi was very fortunate to be found alive.
"DOC, iwi and community groups have invested a lot of time into protecting areas known to support kiwi. This one who would have almost certainly died if it hadn't been found in the road-side sump," she says.
Waka Kotahi Transport Systems Manager Ross l'Anson commended the team for its efforts in saving the kiwi.
"The pair did everything right and thanks to their quick action, the kiwi has a good chance at recovery," he says.
As for the roadside rescuers, Logan Turner is happy he and Isaak Ryan found the kiwi in time, and its health is improving.
If people discover kiwi stuck in holes, drains or culverts – and the bird appears unable to get out – DOC recommends using a plank of some kind to create a ramp for the bird to climb on.
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