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Kiwis for kiwi - Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society Incorporated

Little spotted kiwi nearly became extinct in the early 20th century before a small number were translocated to Kāpiti Island, making it, arguably, the country’s first functioning kōhanga.

Kōhanga sites are predator-free, which is important for little spotted kiwi as they are vulnerable to predators like stoats at all stages of life because of their size. Kōhanga are also used for Operation Nest Egg as they are the safest place for kiwi chicks of all species.

The boundaries that create a kōhanga site, whether that be water or a predator-proof fence, keep predators out. They also keep kiwi in, which means that kiwi populations can be strategically managed.

When a site reaches capacity, birds can be moved to other protected areas, creating new populations or bolstering existing ones. Doing this leaves the remaining birds enough space to continue to breed and helps manage the overall genetic diversity of the species.

But kiwi need new safe habitat to move to, which is where the incredible effort of community- and Māori-led kiwi conservation groups comes in. It takes a lot of work to ensure that an area is kept safe for kiwi, even if it has a predator-proof fence like Shakespear Open Sanctuary.

This year, Kiwis for kiwi is proud to have worked with the community-led groups, Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society Incorporated (SOSSI) and the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi (SoTM), along with the Department of Conservation and Auckland Council to establish only the third mainland population of little spotted kiwi.

Shakespear Open Sanctuary, at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, includes the Shakespear Regional Park, which is owned and managed by Auckland Council, and the land owned by the New Zealand Defence Force. In total, it covers 512 hectares, making it one of the largest mainland-based pest free sanctuaries in the country.

In 2011, a 1.7km long predator-proof fence was built across the peninsula to create a predator-free sanctuary for vulnerable native species.

However, having a predator-proof fence doesn’t mean that the work to protect the area is finished. It’s vitally important to ensure that the fence remains secure and that no pests or predators make their way into the sanctuary. Especially as the Sanctuary is home to so many species that would are particularly vulnerable. The volunteers of SOSSI have to remain vigilant.

“We only catch mice in our traps, which is a good thing,” says Brian O’Shea, SOSSI’s Treasurer. “But that doesn’t mean that we can be complacent. We have had a couple of instances of small incursions, like a family of rats brought in by a camper a couple of years ago, and it’s important to have everything in place to act on these and deal with them as quickly as possible. A more serious incident could easily wipe out entire populations of some of the species that live here.”

Since the Sanctuary was opened, a host of native birds have made it their home, including whiteheads and North Island robins, which were translocated to the sanctuary in 2015 and 2016 respectively. And now little spotted kiwi have joined them.

Kiwis for kiwi provided funding to both SOSSI and SoTM, who jointly covered the costs of catching and relocating 20 little spotted kiwi from Kāpiti Island. 10 males and 10 females were moved from Kāpiti Island, with the females going to Tiritiri Matangi and the males going to Shakespear Open Sanctuary. 10 females that were resident on Tiritiri Matangi were then moved to Shakespear, increasing the genetic diversity of any future chicks.

That little spotted kiwi now have a safe new home at Shakespear Open Sanctuary is thanks to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers at SOSSI and SoTM and their supporters, the generosity of donors who help Kiwis for kiwi fund these kinds of projects, and of course the coordination of DOC and Auckland Council.

Projects like this take a lot of coordination and Kiwis for kiwi was also pleased to be on hand to help guide SOSSI through the process. “It’s good to have an organisation like Kiwis for kiwi, not only for funding, but also for advice and guidance,” says Brian. “It’s good to have a central contact, where we know we can go for any questions we may have. I see Kiwis for kiwi as good management coordinators who also provide funding.”

We’re proud to work on projects like this one with community-led conservation groups like SOSSI and SoTM and partners like DOC and Auckland Council. They’re testament to the important contribution needed from a wide range of people and organisations to achieve the vision of taking kiwi from endangered to everywhere. There are already five little spotted kiwi couples and one confirmed egg as at 1 November 2017, so the new environment is proving productive. If you happen to be visiting Shakespear Open Sanctuary at any point in the future, keep your eyes peeled for signs of its latest residents.

Header image (c) Auckland Council