Three of the North Island’s rarest kiwi sailed by waka houroua on Saturday to their new home on Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf as part of collaborative efforts to save the Coromandel brown kiwi.

A partnership between Motutapu Restoration Trust (MRT), Rotoroa Island Trust (RIT), Department of Conservation, Auckland Zoo, Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, Ngāti Paoa, Ngāti Tamaterā and the Coromandel Kiwi Collective (a united forum of community-led projects on the Coromandel Peninsula) is working to establish a sustainable population of the Coromandel brown kiwi on the predator free Motutapu Island.

The journey for these three ‘teenagers’ began in Te Mata, part of the Thames Coast Kiwi Care (TCKC) project, one of the community-led projects on the Coromandel which focuses on preserving and growing the Coromandel brown kiwi, of which it is estimated  only 1700 are remaining.   The eggs were uplifted and taken to Auckland Zoo where they were incubated and hatched.  The chicks were then taken to Rotoroa Island, and the three young birds, now aged between three and five months, have been released on Motutapu Island.

Motutapu Restoration Trust Chair, Brett Butland said welcoming the birds on the final leg of their journey was seen as a celebration by the Trust and the thousands of volunteers that have given their time and passion to restoring and maintaining the islands’ forests.

“This is a fitting celebration of the Trust’s 21st birthday and all the incredible work done by our supporters and volunteers to ensure we have kiwi and other native flora and fauna as a part of our future.  A lot of what we do is not glamorous but just sheer hard work which has made Motutapu a shining example of community conservation efforts.

“We’ve given a new slant to the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.  While we will be looking after them while they’re here, it has taken the dedication of many people to get them this far, and we thank them sincerely. ”

James Brown, Chairman, Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki said sailing the kiwi on Haunui, a waka hourua was a fitting mode of transport for the three kiwi.

“Transporting our taonga by waka hourua to their new home signified traditional protocols and rituals.  We have been entrusted as guardians of these birds by our Ngāti Paoa brothers in the Coromandel and we wanted to deliver them safely in the way our ancestors would have.  The four hour journey was a time for us to honour these beautiful and special birds as part of our duty of care.”

Two females and one male will be released to the island.Their arrival brings the number of kiwi released to the island to 25, close to the target 40 birds needed for the founder population.

Michelle Impey, chief executive of Kiwis for kiwi trust, said this most recent kiwi release highlights the efforts required by many but also underlines the reality that we can save kiwi.

“The Coromandel brown kiwi are one of four regionally distinct kiwi on the North Island and with the huge efforts from community-led kiwi conservations projects such as Thames Coast Kiwi Care we are turning around the 2% decline of our kiwi population every year.  In fact, Coromandel brown kiwi are the only regional population on the North Island growing by the targeted 2% per annum.”