Tuesday, 26 May 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Journey to save Coromandel brown kiwi continues

Property owners in the top half of the Coromandel Peninsula are being invited to participate in a cross-community project aimed at growing the population of Coromandel brown kiwi.

“To the Motu and Back” - a programme coordinated by national organisation, Kiwis for Kiwi, and involving local kiwi care groups - aims to establish a breeding population of birds on predator-free Motutapu Island. Free from danger, the kiwi will create a robust population that can be returned to safe sites on the Peninsula, expanding existing populations and even creating new ones.

The first stage of the project has recently reached the halfway point with 106 kiwi released onto Motutapu Island. “It is highly likely a number of chicks have hatched on Motutapu Island, so realistically there’s more kiwi than just those released,” says Paula Williams, Coromandel kōhanga co-ordinator with Kiwis for Kiwi.  “The second step is to bring kiwi hatched on Motutapu Island home to the Coromandel Peninsula. To maintain the founding population, only non-microchipped birds will leave the island. They will need to exceed a specified weight threshold to ensure they’re big enough to fend off a stoat once back on the Peninsula and they will only be released into spaces we know are safe.”

The goal is to have the island population mirror that of the Peninsula by introducing birds from all areas. “The next part of the project is to increase the representation from the eastern area of the Coromandel,” says Paula. “To achieve this, we are working with the Kapowai Kiwi Group. We would also like to return to the upper Coromandel area - avoiding the Port Charles and Stony Bay areas because of their contribution already - to look at sites on the western side of the Peninsula, including Papa Aroha, Tuateawa and the Colville Hills.”

Kiwis for Kiwi is keen to hear from landowners who are aware of kiwi on their property and are keen to help grow the population of birds. Eggs are lifted, then hatched at a captive-rearing facility before being released onto Motutapu Island. “The male kiwi will be monitored until they contribute up to five chicks for the Motutapu Island population and then the transmitter will be removed,” says Paula.

The aspiration that kiwi will once again become abundant, that their call will be heard by many throughout the Coromandel is becoming real. The Peninsula has the greatest rate of kiwi recovery in the country - 4.8 per cent - because 75 per cent of the land where kiwi live has active and efficient pest and predator control in place. “There are many, many individuals and groups involved in this effort, protecting native species and the environment where they live,” says Paula. “Every effort, no matter how big or small, is significant.”

Kiwis for Kiwi hopes to return birds to the Coromandel within the next four to five years. “The numbers returning to the Peninsula will be in smaller quantities initially, but if estimates are correct, could be in excess of 200 kiwi annually, and perpetually, once carrying capacity on Motutapu Island is reached,” says Paula.

To prepare for bringing birds home, Kiwis for Kiwi is working with Waikato Regional Council and the Department of Conservation on a group strategy for ensuring the places they return to are safe. “Sustaining, expanding and making new areas safe for kiwi will not happen overnight and not without significant effort,” says Paula. “It is acknowledged this piece of work is really pressing, we know people are keen to move and this is being treated with a high level of urgency.”

In the meantime, volunteer groups and individuals are being encouraged to continue their efforts in relation to predator control. Property owners in the northern or eastern Coromandel who have kiwi on their land must please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if they are interested in becoming involved in the “To the Motu and Back” programme.

Pictured: Aaron Power, a trustee of the Project Kiwi Trust based on the Kuaotunu Peninsula, one of several local groups working with Kiwis for Kiwi to grow kiwi numbers on the Coromandel. Photo by James Gow.

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