The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited the National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa at Rainbow Springs Nature Park in Rotorua today.
They were lucky to see a chick that had hatched just 15 minutes before they arrived, and then got to watch a health check being performed on two chicks, which they then named Koha and Tihei.
Both are te reo Māori names – Koha meaning ‘gift’ and Tihei comes from the saying ‘tihei mauriora’ which means ‘the sneeze of life’.
Koha is a chick from Project Kiwi on the Coromandel. The Duke and Duchess felt the name was appropriate as it was the most well-behaved of the two chicks, whereas the wriggly one, from Purangi Kiwi Project in Taranaki, was jokingly referred to as a ‘’naughty kiwi’’ by the Duke.
Michelle Impey, executive director of Kiwis for kiwi was honored to be one of the kiwi handlers for the day, and to spend some time with the Duke and Duchess, alongside Emma Bean, Husbandry Manager at The National Kiwi Hatchery. Michelle felt the couple were genuinely interested and really enjoyed their up-close encounter.
“They asked a lot of questions about kiwi. The Duchess said her favourite toy as a child was a stuffed kiwi, a gift from her mom, and that she was really excited to finally see a real one”.
As part of a brief overview of kiwi conservation, Michelle Impey explained to the Duke and Duchess how this was part of a broader strategy to increase the numbers of kiwi chicks in predator free creches (kōhanga sites), and once they safely grow and start reproducing, their young can be relocated every year to predator free areas to start new populations.
Tihei will return to the wild in Taranaki, but Koha will make its way to Motutapu Island, a kōhanga kiwi site in the Hauraki Gulf, as part of this strategy.
“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 more than 1,000 kiwi to these habitats. From that point, we can start relocating the young to create new wild populations.
“We hope that by having the Duke and Duchess visit The National Kiwi Hatchery today, it will help to tell the story to the world of the work being done to save the kiwi. There is great work being done by amazing people, backed by an achievable strategy that will deliver results. We can bring kiwi back.”
The visit concluded with Ms Impey gifting a series of Kuwi the Kiwi children’s books, authored by Kat Merewether, to the couple.