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Feral dogs undermine Hawke’s Bay kiwi conservation efforts

‘Heart breaking’ find in Maungataniwha Native Forest

Dogs have mauled at least one kiwi, probably more, on a central Hawke’s Bay property owned by the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust and home to one of this country’s most prolific kiwi conservation programmes. Two hounds, believed to have been feral for at least six months, killed a young female kiwi last month (June) in the Maungataniwha Native Forest south of Te Urewera.

The bird, Orotika, came from an egg recovered in 2017 as part of the national Operation Nest Egg kiwi conservation initiative. She was released into the Maungataniwha Native Forest in February 2018.

The attack comes hot on the heels of reports of a second dog-related death of a monitored kiwi in the Kaweka Forest Park in the past 12 months.

The two dogs at Maungataniwha were spotted by Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust staffer Barry Crene. They match the description of animals seen in the Whirinaki Forest Park, some 30 kms away, late last year.

“If these are the same mutts then they’ve been killing and maiming our native wildlife for at least six months, probably even longer,” said the Trust’s forest manager, Pete Shaw. “Goodness knows what damage and carnage they’ve caused and how badly they’ve set back kiwi conservation efforts in this region.”

The Trust’s Maungataniwha Kiwi Programme looks set to return more than 50 young birds back to the forest this season but Mr Shaw says this effort could be negated completely by the damage caused by the dogs.

“They’ve been roaming feral through kiwi country for six months or more. It’s entirely possible they’ve killed more birds than we’ve put back. It’s heart-breaking!”

The Trust is calling for all dogs used for hunting to be chipped and trained for kiwi aversion.

“It’s time for people who take their dogs into the bush to get serious about this stuff,” Mr Shaw said. “Taking unchipped, untrained dogs into the bush should be as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.”

The mauled kiwi was found in an area where many of the Trust’s ‘tagged’ (microchipped) kiwi, from which it retrieves eggs for incubation, have their burrows. Tagged kiwi make up only a small proportion of the birds that live in the area, which conservationists think now has a self-sustaining kiwi population base thanks to the success of the Maungataniwha Kiwi Programme.

Specially-trained species conservation dogs used to sniff out kiwi on the Trust’s Maungataniwha property in 2017 found a large proportion of unidentified adults, indicating that that intensive and ongoing predator control efforts there are proving effective. 38 adult birds were found there over a two-year period, of which 22 were not microchipped.

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