Sunday, 28 February 2021

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Kiwi sanctuary off-limits for new chicks after presence of stoat confirmed

The island sanctuary serving as a dedicated nursery for Coromandel brown kiwi has been temporarily closed to new arrivals after the presence of a stoat was confirmed last month.

DNA tests proved that a tūturuatu (shore plover) body found on its nest on Motutapu in December, had been killed by a stoat. Two further tūturuatu were since found dead on the island. News of a predator at large prompted an urgent response from the Kiwis for Kiwi organisation, which coordinates the work of multiple local kiwi care groups on the Coromandel who have collectively sent more than 100 kiwi chicks to the pest-free island as part of the “To the Motu and Back” project. This included the launch of an immediate rescue operation for two vulnerable recent transfers.

“Prior to having an awareness of stoat presence on Motutapu, Kiwis for Kiwi had released two Coromandel brown kiwi chicks this season to join the 107 already transferred to the motu,” says Paula Williams, Coromandel coordinator for Kiwis for Kiwi. “These chicks from Kuaotunu were around four weeks of age and weighed 450 grams at release.

“[We] sent a kiwi-certified dog and handler team to the island on New Year’s Eve to recapture these chicks and relocate them by helicopter to the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua. The team was successful in recatching one of the two chicks.”

After an assessment by a predator control expert, alongside the Department of Conservation and Ngāi tai ki Tāmaki, more traps and field cameras have been installed and the predator trapping system is being intensified. “Work continues to track down the stoat/s and Kiwis for Kiwi hopes the motu will be safe to continue transferring kiwi chicks to in the future,” says Paula. “In the meantime, the safety of kiwi vulnerable to stoat predation is of utmost importance. Until a zero-presence of stoat is determined on Motutapu, kiwi chicks will not be transferred.

“All chicks due for release onto Motutapu will be moved to crèching facilities around the North Island where they’ll be reared until they’re around 1kg in weight.”

The Department of Conservation said how the stoat made its way onto the island is undetermined, however it is most likely that it swam.

Motutapu has been officially pest free since 2011 and provides a safe haven for threatened and at-risk native wildlife including kiwi, takahē, tūturuatu/shoreplover, tīeke/saddleback, kākāriki/red-crowned parakeet, korimako/bellbird and native skinks.

“To the Motu and Back” aims to establish a breeding population of Coromandel brown kiwi on Motutapu where they will create a robust population that can eventually be returned to safe sites on the Peninsula. The goal is to see the first birds returned to the Coromandel in the next four to five years with efforts continuing with Waikato Regional Council to provide sufficient predator-free areas.

Pictured: The young Coromandel brown kiwi chick that was rescued from Motutapu on New Year’s Eve after confirmation that a stoat was present on the island.

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