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  • Writer's pictureForest Lifeforce

Aquarium doubles kiwi intake

kiwi conservation success creates new demand for ‘half-way houses’

A leading conservation trust and the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier have joined forces to expand this country’s ability to protect kiwi chicks until they are large enough to fend for themselves in the wild.

The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust has spent [insert amount] on building new rearing enclosures at the aquarium’s kiwi breeding facility near Napier. The work doubles the number of kiwi chicks that the facility can handle and helps ease growing demand for rearing space.

Kiwi eggs from the Trust’s Maungataniwha Kiwi Project are incubated at Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua. Until now all the resulting chicks have been reared in safety at the Cape Sanctuary near Napier. When they are large enough they are released back into the forest from which the eggs were taken.

But growing numbers and pressure on the space available have forced the Trust to find other safe ‘half-way houses’ for the birds to grow.

The new enclosures at the National Aquarium of New Zealand’s kiwi breeding facility are large enough to take 30 birds a year, about half the number generated by the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project. The rest will continue to go to the Cape Sanctuary.

“This has been an absolutely brilliant problem to have,” said Trust Chairman Simon Hall. “The fact that kiwi conservation initiatives are, between them, producing too many birds for existing rearing facilities to cope with, is testament to the effectiveness of the work being done by hundreds of dedicated people in the back blocks and wop-wops of this country, from Cape Reinga to Bluff.”

The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust celebrated recently the return to Maungataniwha of the 200th young adult kiwi raised as part of its kiwi project, ensuring the viability of the population there for the next three decades.

Between inception in 2006 and the end of March last year it had harvested 453 eggs and seen 237 young adults released back into the wild.

The aquarium’s kiwi breeding facility was established in the early 1980s by the Napier City Council. The aquarium took over the facility 18 months ago and has spent the intervening period up-skilling staff and getting to grips with the latest kiwi incubation and rearing techniques.

It already rears kiwi chicks from sanctuaries in Lake Waikaremoana and the Kaweka Ranges. The Maungataniwha birds will double its annual intake.

The chicks will spend about three or four months in the facility while they grow to about a kilogram in weight – large enough for them to give a stoat or a weasel a good kicking. They will then be released back into the Maungataniwha Native Forest.

In addition to the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project the Trust runs a series of native flora and fauna regeneration projects. These include a drive to increase the wild-grown population of Kakabeak (Clianthus maximus), an extremely rare type of shrub, and the re-establishment of native plants and forest on 4,000 hectares currently, or until recently, under pine.

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