POHOKURA KIWI PROJECT
Since 2019 we have been using juveniles sourced as eggs from our Maungataniwha Kiwi Project to re-establish a viable kiwi population on our neighbouring property, Pohokura. At that stage there was a remnant population of a handful of birds on the 11,400 ha property and we said we wanted to introduce at least 200 kiwi by 2024.
That target was reached in February 2023, a year earlier than planned, with the release of two male birds, Butch and Poi. They became the 199th and 200th Maungataniwha kiwi to be homed at Pohokura.
The kiwi population at Pohokura is not yet at the same density as the Maungataniwha population, partly because there was a smaller number of original birds for them to mingle with. But it is definitely now large enough, with a much-improved genetic mix, to grow meaningfully and naturally with predator control in place.
We monitored 18 juvenile kiwi released at Pohokura for a total of 3,668 days, averaging 204 days per bird. Surprisingly, all of them appear to have survived the monitoring period although some moved beyond monitoring range and into neighbouring forests where there are similar levels of predator control.
This was a first in our experience. We have taken it as proof of concept and it gives us huge confidence in the process we are following. We now know that if kiwi conservationists adopt this formula they’re going to get a viable, surviving and thriving kiwi population out the other end.
Both Maungataniwha and Pohokura Forests have received aerial 1080 control operations on a regular basis. Overlay this with an effective mustelid trapping programme and intensive Operation Nest Egg work and the result is a viable, surviving and thriving kiwi population out the other end; one that can help populate other forests.
We have thrown everything at this work and it’s reassuring to see the results. Reaching the 200 target for Pohokura is a huge milestone – the more kiwi released, the more kiwi that will benefit from predator control, and the quicker the population will grow.
We will continue to stock Pohokura with kiwi from Maungataniwha. The area can easily hold as many as 500 breeding pairs. So the 200-bird milestone in February 2023 was just the start.
Genetic representation is an important consideration when it comes to repopulating land with kiwi. We aim to grow still further the number of new males fitted with radio transmitters at Maungataniwha so that we can incubate their eggs and release their chicks at Pohokura, broadening the genetic spread there. We hope also to work with other conservation initiatives to cross-populate and supplement sparse populations.
Pohokura lies to the north of State Highway 5 between Taupo and Napier and adjoins the privately-owned Ngatapa Station (9,515ha), the Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park and the Waipunga Conservation Area. Together with the our other properties at Maungataniwha, these properties form a contiguous 100,000 ha swathe of the central North Island where kiwi conservation is a priority. Pohokura’s expanding kiwi population is already re-populating these neighbouring areas.
Large-scale, sustained pest control and predator eradication takes place throughout this area with the help of equipment and services donated by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and specialist not-for-profit pest management provider OSPRI. More recently Save the Kiwi, the only national charity dedicated to protecting our flightless national icon, has directed Jobs for Nature funding towards the work on Pohokura, with trapper Mike Walker managing an operation spanning 9,000 hectares.
Re-establishing kiwi at Pohokura supports the long-term goal of the national Kiwi Recovery Plan; to reach 100,000 kiwi by 2030 through growing populations of all kiwi species by at least two percent a year, restoring them to their former distribution and maintaining their genetic diversity. Save the Kiwi says the success of our work with Eastern Brown kiwi at Maungataniwha, and now here at Pohokura, has contributed significantly towards achieving the two percent target for this taxon.
Our work with kiwi could not happen without the collaboration of our conservation partners, particularly the Cape Sanctuary, the National Kiwi Hatchery and its funder Ngāi Tahu, the Department of Conservation and Save The Kiwi.