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  • Writer's pictureForest Lifeforce

Late arrival for Hawke’s Bay kiwi egg

Even more to come?

One of the latest kiwi eggs ever to be submitted for artificial incubation was delivered last week by Hawke’s Bay-based Forest Lifeforce Restoration (FLR) Trust to the Kiwi Encounter hatchery at Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park in Rotorua, as part of the BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust programme.

But eyebrows in conservation circles are set to be raised further as the FLR Trust confirmed today that yet another egg will soon be lifted from a nest on its property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest – more than two months later than usual.

Eggs are normally lifted between September and March and deliveries to the hatchery are usually complete by late March or early April at the latest.

“At this point we’re unsure whether to classify this new egg as really late for this season or really early for next,” said Pete Shaw, FLR Trustee and estate manager. “The bird has been on the egg for about 24 days and, as most eggs are lifted after the 60 day mark and hatch at around 85 days, it still has a fair way to go.

“Either way it’s well out of season and this is something we’d be keen to explore and discuss with the kiwi conservation community at large.”

The egg delivered to Rainbow Springs last week was lifted from Maungataniwha in the early hours of Tuesday 5 June. It was then driven to Kiwi Encounter, five hours away.

It was produced by North Island brown kiwi male Para and his partner. Para was one of the first kiwi fitted with a transmitter in the FLR Trust’s Maungataniwha Kiwi Project and was named after the kaumatua who originally blessed the work there, the late Paratene Te Huia. Para and his mate have produced eight healthy kiwi chicks since the project started.

The FLR Trust was aware that the pair had produced eggs this season, but later than usual. Last week contractor Barry Crene was monitoring Para’s movements, waiting for him leave his nest to feed. He did so at 2am on Tuesday. Crene retrieved two eggs, one of which was infertile, and these were taken to the Kiwi Encounter hatchery.

“The viable egg looks perfectly healthy and will probably hatch in early July,” Crene said. “The chick will be raised initially at Rainbow Springs before being entrusted to the care of Sue McLennan at Cape Kidnappers until it’s over 850 grams in weight, large enough to defend itself against stoats. At that point, probably around October, we’ll collect it and return it to the wild.

“Assuming the egg we’re watching at the moment is viable, the FLR Trust will have delivered either the two last eggs of this season, or the final egg of this and the first of next. We think that’s quite cool.”

The FLR Trust is fast carving out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country. It has delivered 39 viable eggs to the Kiwi Encounter hatchery this season.

It is in its sixth season as part of BNZ Operation Nest Egg and has so far lifted 132 chicks in total. Its 100th kiwi reared as part of the programme, a male named Takamoana, was released at Maungataniwha earlier this year by its patron Rachel Hunter.

“Normally we’d expect the rearing and release of this many kiwi to take twice as long,” said Michelle Impey, executive director of BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust, at the time. “The FLR Trust team have got it down to a fine art and it’s wonderful that some of the chicks released three or four years ago are now breeding themselves – further adding to the population.”

The Maungataniwha Kiwi Project is a joint project run by the FLR Trust and the Cape Kidnappers and Ocean Beach Wildlife Preserve. It aims to secure and enhance the kiwi population in the Maungataniwha Native Forest and provide kiwi for the restocking of the Cape Kidnappers and Ocean Beach Preserve.

Half the chicks reared from Maungataniwha eggs are sent to the Preserve and the rest are returned to Maungataniwha. It was chosen as the predominant kiwi source population for the Cape Kidnappers and Ocean Beach Preserve as it’s within the East Coast, Hawke’s Bay kiwi taxa region and contains good numbers of birds.

In addition to the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project the FLR 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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