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Two important milestones for a Hawke’s Bay kiwi called Ātārangi

When the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua incubated its 2500th bird last month, the moment also marked a milestone for conservationists in Hawke’s Bay. The special chick could become the 700th kiwi from the Maungataniwha Native Forest, adjoining Te Urewera, to be released back into the forests of the central North Island. This achievement is believed to be a record for a single conservation organisation.


The chick is called Ātārangi. Its egg was recovered from its nest by the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust, one of the most prolific kiwi conservation initiatives in the country, and sent to the National Kiwi Hatchery as part of Operation Nest Egg. This is a nation-wide initiative that removes kiwi eggs from their burrows, incubates them and cares for the chicks in captivity until they’re big enough to fend for themselves in the wild.


Many eggs recovered by the organisations and individuals taking part in Operation Nest Egg are incubated at the National Kiwi Hatchery. This is owned and operated by Ngāi Tahu and has recently moved to a new purpose-built facility at Agrodome in Rotorua, doubling its capacity.


National Kiwi Hatchery manager Emma Bean says partners like Forest Lifeforce were critical to the success of the National Kiwi Hatchery and Operation Nest Egg.


“Our new facility at Agrodome has state-of-the-art features which are helping keep kiwi chicks safe. Working together, we ensure that kiwi from Maungataniwha Native Forest flourish.”


“This extra capacity at National Kiwi Hatchery is great news,” said Simon Hall, chairman of the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust. “There is huge demand for eggs retrieved as part of Operation Nest Egg and, even with the construction of additional incubation facilities such as Save the Kiwi’s creche near Napier, we were running out of space to incubate them.”

Mr Hall said this was a wonderful problem to have because it meant that work to re-establish viable populations of Eastern Brown kiwi was progressing well. But it was limiting kiwi conservation work.


“Now, with this big new facility in Rotorua, we can all put our foot on the accelerator once again.”


Juvenile kiwi hatching in forests with no predator protection in place have only a five percent chance of making it to adulthood. The survival rate of Operation Nest Egg kiwi far exceeds this. They are returned to the bush after growing to a kilogram in weight in predator-proof enclosures known as kiwi crèches. This is the size they need to be to effectively defend themselves from stoats, one of the worst predators of young kiwi.


From the day it started work in 2006 until the end of July last year the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust’s Maungataniwha Kiwi Project, based on its property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest, had released 606 juvenile kiwi back into that forest or into other heavily pest-controlled areas to help re-establish viable populations.


So far this season (2023/2024) it has recovered 95 viable (with a live, well-developed chick inside) eggs and released 34 juveniles from these eggs. Other chicks are still incubating or in crèches, and there are four nests from which eggs still need to be recovered.“So, if we count the numbers from this current Operation Nest Egg season, it looks like we might hit the milestone later this year of 700 kiwi released back into the bush,” Mr Hall said.


Ātārangi has just moved outside to the new creche area to grow up to 1kg, so there is a possibility that it could be the 700th juvenile kiwi to be released by the Trust.

Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust chairman Simon Hall and his partner Anya Donnelly (right) with National Kiwi Hatchery business manager Emma Bean and the hatchery’s 2500th chick, an Eastern Brown kiwi called Ātārangi from the Trust’s property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest.

Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust chairman Simon Hall with National Kiwi Hatchery business manager Emma Bean, celebrating the successful incubation of the hatchery’s 2500th chick, an Eastern Brown kiwi called Ātārangi from the Trust’s property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest.

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