Kiwi Recovery Program
18 April 2008

A First Hand Experience on a Kiwi Recovery Program

The kiwi is a flightless nocturnal bird which is native to New Zealand as well as being a national icon. Unfortunately, in recent times, their population has been reducing by 6% per year owing to the chicks and eggs being vulnerable to introduced species such as possums, stoats, ferrets, weasels as well as wild cats and dogs. In recent years, a Kiwi Recovery Program has been set up by the NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) to prevent the decline in kiwi numbers. The kiwi eggs are removed from the wild, hatched and reared in captivity then the chicks are released back into the wild when big enough to defend themselves against predators. Special kiwi sanctuaries have been set up where DOC has used intensive ground based predator control to knock out possums and stoats etc. 

Whilst on holiday in January at the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsular, I joined a DOC tour at a kiwi sanctuary near Port Jackson on an official expedition to locate, weigh and measure a North island brown kiwi.

The kiwi has a small locator beacon which, with the aid of a directional aerial, enables the DOC staff to find it in the dense bush. This search program was also aided by “Choccie”, a cute short-haired German Pointer dog especially trained in the gentle art of kiwi recovery.  

We entered the bush and walked for about 30 minutes along a track and past several boxed predator traps. After a 45 minute search, the little brown baby kiwi was finally located and it was gently carried out into the open space for the weigh-in etc. Some of the visitors assisted in the weighing and measurement process and this tiny kiwi was still only about half the safe weight of around one kilogram where it could fend for itself against predators.



The feathers of the bird were incredibly soft and it did not lash out or defend itself with its long beak.  The same can not be said of its feet and a tight hold of both its legs was required to prevent certain escape back into the dark dense bush.




Official records were taken of all its vital statistics and finally the little kiwi was released into a dark safe wooden enclosure where it could later escape into the wild under the cover of night until the next monthly weigh in.




Several children were on this expedition and you could only share in their delight in seeing and holding of a live kiwi. The DOC education program involves schools and children to heighten their awareness to the endangered plight of the kiwi and of the Kiwi Recovery Program. I also felt privileged to have experienced first hand DOS'c Kiwi Recovery Program and it was one of the highlights of the hot long summer.




Since the Kiwi Recovery Program has been introduced, the success rate has varied but some areas are reporting a 65% survival rate. This is a vast improvement on the former 10% survival rate without the program at which point the specie would eventually become extinct.




A kiwi has the potential to live for 20-40 years and hopefully this little brown kiwi will live to a ripe old age and will see off all predators, large and small. Until next time!





Copyright 2008: Bruce Burgess Photography