Five captive-bred Northland Brown kiwi adults reared in Otorohonga and Auckand Zoos and Kiwi North Kiwi House in Whangarei were returned by Far North District Office, Department of Conservation (DOC) to Motukawanui Island, the largest island in the Cavalli group offshore from Matauri Bay, on 24 October.
The day was an emotional one for the more than 50 Ngati Kura hapu and local Matauri Bay community members who came. Nau Epiha, Ngati Kura kaumatua said: “It’s great to welcome the kiwi back as our tuakana (senior to our ancestors); the kiwi are our manawhenua.”
The whole Matauri Bay community turned out to welcome the birds home. Tamariki from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Whangaroa and Matauri Te Ohonga Reo and school children from Matauri Bay Primary School travelled with the kiwi by boat from Matauri Bay to Motukawanui Island to help introduce the birds to their new home.
“It was very educational, so good to see all the generations out there seeing it happen. The youngest being seven weeks old!” said Mori Pera, Ngati Kura whaea.
Kiwi were first released on Motukawanui in 1995 in an early Operation Nest Egg (ONE) project. The original ten North Island Brown Kiwi came from eggs rescued from a variety of backgrounds: Whangarei, Waitangi and elsewhere in Northland. The birds were raised in captivity then released onto Motukawanui in an attempt to create a protected island population to help reduce falling kiwi numbers on the mainland.
Cinzia Vestena, Far North District Office DOC Conservation Services Ranger says: “Kiwi have thrived on Motukawanui since 1995 thanks to the diverse habitat and lack of predators such as stoats and dogs. In May 2004, about half of Motukawanui Island was surveyed for kiwi. Eight kiwi were found using a kiwi dog. The kiwi were in good condition and about 50-60 birds were estimated to be living on the island at that time. It is likely that there are about twice as many kiwi on the island now.”
Cinzia says: “It is expected the five captive kiwi we have recently introduced to the island will breed with the resident kiwi and add their genes to the mix. Motukawanui is a beautiful place which is popular with locals and visitors during the summer. Unfortunately dogs are the main killers of kiwi in Northland and its off-shore islands. Kiwi can have their burrows in the thick grass just behind the beach and around Motukawanui’s DOC hut, so any dog walking on the beach could be attracted by their strong smell. The public can help these amazing birds survive in their new island home by not bringing dogs ashore.”