Even though we now know kiwi are under serious threat, what we do today still harms them.
If you live near kiwi, and you own a dog or cat, your pet could be having a devastating impact on your local kiwi population.
Killing possums can kill kiwi
Today a great deal of New Zealand’s conservation effort is spent on controlling introduced possums. Ironically, some of the traps and poisons we use to kill possums can also harm kiwi.
Leg-hold possum traps, generally set on the forest floor, can kill or maim kiwi. Many birds bear the scars of a narrow escape – missing toes or feet, or damaged beaks. If used, leg-hold traps should always be set at least 70-centimetres off the ground.
Cyanide poison, used in some possum bait, can also kill kiwi. Cyanide baits should always be at least 70-centimetres off the ground – not just placed on fallen logs.
Another risk to kiwi comes if hunters leave possum carcasses lying where they were skinned. These attract predators, such as cats and stoats, and help their numbers grow. When the carcasses run out, these hunters move on to other prey, such as kiwi chicks.
Monitoring has shown that 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate) poses a very low risk to kiwi. More than 100 birds monitored with radio transmitters were not harmed during or after 1080 operations. The toxin also has the advantage that it kills stoats and wild cats, which allows kiwi chicks to survive.
Sometimes kiwi are killed on roads – they are no match for cars and trucks. As New Zealand’s human population increases, towns and cities spread even further into areas where kiwi live and today many roads dissect kiwi territory.
People driving at night in an area where kiwi live need to remember that a dark hunched shape on the road at night may not be a possum – it could be a kiwi.
If you hit a kiwi, please do not hit-and-run. Injured birds should be taken to the nearest vet for treatment. Dead birds should be taken to the Department of Conservation – autopsies can provide valuable information, and the feathers will be given to local Maori.
Kiwi have drowned in people’s swimming pools and in effluent ponds on farms. Others have died of starvation after falling into cattle stops, pits or holes.
If you have kiwi near where you live, identify any hazards that could trap a bird and put in an escape ramp.