Kiwis for kiwi

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Kiwis for kiwi - Wendy Sporle

For many years, Wendy’s work was focused on the Northland region, helping raise people’s awareness about the plight of Northland brown kiwi, and helped landowners and communities learn how to control pests and predators.

Then in 2006, she took on a new national role – using her vast knowledge and experience to help train and mentor kiwi advocates and community groups throughout New Zealand, and make sure national networks are in place to share ideas and knowledge.

Formerly with the BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust and now with The Kiwi Trust, Wendy’s role sees her travelling to wherever active kiwi recovery work is underway – including Northland, the Coromandel, the east coast of the North Island and Arthur’s Pass in the South Island’s mountainous high country.

The job also involves developing resources that kiwi groups can use to raise awareness in their local communities, such as the very simple message to dog owners to keep their animals tied up or on a leash. “It may seem simple,” Wendy says, “but research by the Department of Conservation (DOC) shows that if dogs stopped killing kiwi in Northland, populations would be self-sustaining and our work up there would be largely done.”

As well as being on the Kiwi Recovery Group, Wendy is also building links between the trust and others working in ecological protection and science. “When you put it all together, my role helps enhance the profile of The Kiwi Trust as the gateway to kiwi expertise,” she says.

Why kiwi?

Wendy focused on kiwi when she first became Northland’s kiwi advocate for the BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust more than 20 years ago and she continues that passion with The Kiwi Trust today. “As a farmer, I really enjoyed showing fellow farmers they can maintain an economic return from their land, while taking its conservation values into account. In fact,” says Wendy, “sometimes conservation adds value, especially if they work with their neighbours on pest and predator control to exponentially increase the benefits.”

This is a woman who doesn’t just preach, it’s all based on personal experience. Wendy has a protection programme in place on her Northland beef and tree farm, part of which is under Queen Elizabeth II covenant, and trials new methods and equipment. “It means I can give practical advice on what has worked for me.”

High point

When Wendy began as a Kiwi Advocate, few people were actively protecting kiwi, or kiwi habitat. Over the years, new groups have sprouted in Northland and around the country, bringing more and more motivated and energetic landowners and communities to the party. “They are beginning to see the benefits of increases in kiwi numbers, chick sightings and low pest and predator numbers. The cry of the kiwi is being heard again. I have more hope that we will win the fight to save kiwi in many areas, and that kiwi protection is an achievable goal.”

Low point

Sometimes the task feels overwhelming. “At times I felt I was unable to do enough, soon enough, and that has been difficult because I care about this vulnerable bird so much.” Still hard is being handed endless numbers of kiwi injured by dogs, that eventually die of their wounds. “People are so very slow to realise THEIR dog can, and will, kill a kiwi. I have been told so many times that ‘my dog would never chase a kiwi, it is safe around hens’, or ‘it sits all night at the back door. Then they come back admitting that ‘yes’, their dog has gone on to kill a kiwi.”

Thoughts for the future

Wendy is confident that kiwi survival is achievable, thanks in part because landowners are being called to action. “Because many kiwi live on private land, relying on DOC or other agencies to protect them is not an option.” New pest and predator control methods and ongoing funding for community projects also fuel her confidence that remaining kiwi populations will be secure in the long term.