As part of Save Kiwi Month, a rare kiwi chick was released on Motutapu Island today as the significant first step in Kiwis for kiwi’s strategy to grow kiwi numbers and reverse the population decline.

Bloomers, aptly named for its white feathers that resemble a pair of knickers half on, is the first chick with the genetically rare markings in almost a decade.  Hatched on September 29 at Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua,  the country’s largest kiwi hatching facility, Bloomers is the first kiwi to be released on predator-free Motutapu Island as part of Kiwis for kiwi’s plan to  boost numbers of chicks captured in the wild and released  into predator free habitats.

Executive director of Kiwis for kiwi, Michelle Impey, says numbers of kiwi chicks in predator free creches (kōhanga sites) will be increased and once they safely grow and start reproducing, their young can be relocated every year to predator free areas to start new populations.

“We are taking kiwi production 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.

“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,” says Ms Impey.

For the next five years, Kiwis for kiwi will focus mainly on stocking kōhanga sites on the North Island.  These 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.

The strategy is supported by hundreds of conservation volunteers and private landowners around New Zealand who have personally invested to make their properties predator free.

Ms Impey, said the community and Māori led kiwi conservation projects are pivotal to achieving the target of a 2% increase in kiwi population in the next decade.

“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.  We have a solid, achievable strategy that will deliver results and we can bring kiwi back.”