Kiwi can be saved from extinction by boosting numbers of chicks captured in the wild and releasing them into predator free habitats

That’s the goal of Kiwis for kiwi, the trust that supports hundreds of conservation volunteers and private landowners all over the country to trap and poison predators.

Trust chairman Sir Rob Fenwick announced the plan to reverse the decline of the kiwi population today on a predator free island in the Hauraki Gulf, Motutapu.

“We’ll increase the number of kiwi chicks in predator free creches and once they safely grow and start reproducing, their young can be relocated every year to predator free areas to start new populations.  It’s like setting up an endowment fund for kiwi,” said Sir Rob, who is also a director of Predator Free 2050 Ltd, the company set up to help achieve New Zealand’s Predator Free 2050 goal.

For the next five years, Kiwis for kiwi will focus mainly on stocking kōhanga sites on the North Island, and on a trapping programme for great spotted kiwi on the South Island as these regional species are more easily accessible and there are a larger number of existing management programmes and community projects.

The creches or Kōhanga are usually islands or sites enclosed with predator proof fencing.

Currently, it would take 50 years or more for these sites to reach capacity but Kiwis for kiwi aims to reduce that to 5-10 years.

Sir Rob said the trust brings two key ingredients to its partnership with the Department of Conservation.  A growing army of volunteers alarmed at the prospect of our national icon being destroyed by invading stoats, wild cats and dogs, possums and rats, and a growing number of private landowners who have personally invested to make their properties predator free.

“Harnessing the efforts of these people, with the skills and resources of DOC, presents a great outcome for New Zealand. We’re confident we’ll see kiwi numbers increase from 2022,” he said.

The plan is in response to an $11 million grant from the Government last year to save the kiwi.

Executive director of Kiwis for kiwi, Michelle Impey, said the 100+ community and Maōri led kiwi conservation projects are pivotal to achieving the target of a 2% target.

“We’ve been working with kiwi volunteers for more than 20 years and we’re applying valuable experience and expertise to this national campaign.

“While our national kiwi population is estimated to be declining at a rate of 2% per year, kiwi numbers are growing in areas where work is being done to manage their habitats.   The thousands of volunteers and community projects that continue to work towards a predator free and safe environment for kiwi are fundamental to the success of this strategy with their continued passion and action.  We can’t do it alone.  This is their strategy as much as it is ours,” said Ms Impey.

“While the concept of using Operation Nest Egg and kōhanga sites to grow kiwi numbers is not new, we are taking it to a whole new level and increasing the ‘supply chain’ of kiwi so they can benefit from the existing fenced sanctuaries and predator free offshore islands.   Once we have grown those areas to capacity, we can then relocate their offspring to start new families in other places.

“Over the next five years we plan on returning 1500 kiwi to these habitats.  From that point, we can start relocating the young to create new wild populations.  While this strategy has a five-year life span, the programmes it initiates will last for decades.

“This is a very exciting time for kiwi conservation.  We have a solid, achievable strategy that will deliver results and we can bring kiwi back.”

In 2015 the Government committed a $11.2 million package over four years for kiwi conservation, $3.5 million of which has been allocated to Kiwis for kiwi.

It is estimated an additional cost of $1.3 million per year will be required to achieve an average of 2% growth in kiwi numbers per year and Kiwis for kiwi is looking to raise the funds through a variety of sources including corporate sponsorship, public donations and philanthropic giving.

Ms Impey said that many people in the community may have an interest in supporting this strategy in ways we haven’t identified.   “The door is always open for interested parties to share their ideas which may enhance the implementation of this strategy and ultimately help in protecting and growing our national icon into the future.”

Please click here to view the strategy