Kiwi conservationists on trend alert
First kiwi eggs of the new season are arriving for incubation
The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust’s Maungataniwha Kiwi Project is keeping a close eye on eggs currently being collected for incubation, and the resulting chicks, to see if a drop in egg numbers from last season’s second clutch is repeated this season.
It wasn’t a localised issue. The change was noticed from across the North Island by the National Kiwi Trust at Rainbow Springs’ Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua.
So far this season things are back to normal. The Maungataniwha Kiwi Project’s first two chicks have put in an appearance at Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua. Tuatahi, meaning ‘First’ in te reo, hatched on 4 September and weighed a healthy 375g. Āraitanga arrived on 16 September, weighing an even healthier 377g.
The 2014/2015 season is well under way with 14 eggs having been delivered to Kiwi Encounter for incubation and hatching since 16 August. Five of these were non-viable, meaning that the egg was either infertile or the embryo had died during early development. But the viable eggs are doing well, according to Kiwi Encounter, and more chicks will be hatching soon.
Barry Crene, the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust’s kiwi handler, said he expected to retrieve eggs from at least 18 birds this season, which will end in about mid-April next year.
Last season’s drop in egg numbers could have been the result of a very dry summer, resulting in fewer invertebrates being available for kiwi to eat.
“This would have meant that the birds were not in peak condition and were less keen to lay and sit,” said Claire Travers, husbandry manager at Kiwi Encounter. “It will be interesting to see what happens this year.”
Chicks from Maungataniwha are incubated at Kiwi Encounter then sent to a predator-proof area at Cape Kidnappers south of Napier where they’re raised until they’re large enough to defend themselves in the wild. They’re then returned either to Maungataniwha, in inland Hawke’s Bay, or to partner conservation projects in order to widen the gene pool around a little.
The Forest Lifeforce Restoration (FLR) Trust is fast carving out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country.
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.