A leading conservation trust has committed $250,000 to reintroducing kiwi to a tranche of private land in the central North Island.
The Department of Conservation has approved a $411,000 plan by the Trust to release up to 200 kiwi in the 11,400ha Pohokura Forest between 2019 and 2024.
Reintroduction will be accompanied by extensive predator control work. The project will be funded primarily by the Trust, with specialist not-for-profit provider OSPRI undertaking pest management work to the value of $160,000 and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council contributing trapping equipment worth $11,500.
The green light for the Trust to restock Pohokura with kiwi follows its achievement in June last year of a decade-long ambition to establish a viable kiwi population at its other property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest. It plans to repeat the achievement at Pohokura, releasing up to 40 kiwi there each year for five years, or until 200 kiwi have been released.
The primary source of kiwi will be juveniles from Maungataniwha, incubated and reared as part of the national Operation Nest Egg kiwi conservation initiative. Some may also be sourced from other appropriate locations within the eastern brown kiwi region.
A small number of kiwi are already present at Pohokura, which has the potential to support as many as 500 breeding pairs within the species’ natural geographic range.
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.
Eastern brown kiwi are the least managed and fastest declining of the four regional populations, according to Kiwis for kiwi chief executive Michelle Impey.
“Establishing a population of around 100 pairs within five years at Pohokura will make a significant contribution towards the recovery of this species,” Ms Impey said. “This single project alone will increase the number of kiwi currently under management within the region by over a quarter.”
For the first three years a sample of kiwi released each year at Pohokura will be fitted with radio-transmitters so that their dispersal and survival can be monitored.
Trust Chairman Simon Hall said he hoped Pohokura would ultimately help re-populate neighbouring areas with kiwi.
“Just as Maungataniwha can now be the source of kiwi to re-stock Pohokura, so we hope that ultimately Pohokura kiwi will make their way naturally to neighbouring areas such as the Whirinaki Conservation Forest, which is also being made safe for them,” he said.
The Maungataniwha Kiwi Project is partnered with Kiwis for kiwi, the national charity which supports community-led and Māori-led kiwi conservation projects, and is fast carving out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country. Since its inception in 2006 it has harvested about 360 eggs and seen 200 chicks released back into the wild, about 160 of which have been 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.