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Kiwis for kiwi - Moehau Environment Group

Natalie Collicott, co-ordinator for the Moehau Environment Group, says the co-operation on the Coromandel is a huge asset to achieving kiwi conservation in the area.

“Along with DOC and the Moehau Environment Group, there is strong community support from the Harataunga Kiwi Project in Kennedy Bay, Papa Aroha Environment Group, Forest and Bird and many landowners who live within the sanctuary. Because so little of the land is actually managed by DOC, we really need the community’s co-operation, and they’re giving it” Natalie says.

To check out their latest news and information check out Moehau Environment Groups website: www.meg.org.nz

The Moehau Environment Group formed in 2000 to achieve co-ordinated pest control between landowners in the Moehau area, and now has more than 100 members, mostly locals, landowners and others keen to see the area once again alive with the sounds and sights of native species. Chair, Lettecia Williams, says a co-ordinated approach by neighbouring properties gives a much higher kill rate than everyone doing their own thing at different times of the year.

Moehau Sanctuary’s location at the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula means stoats can only invade from the south, and to do so they have to get through a six kilometre-wide buffer zone filled with lethal traps.

The trapping programme has removed a large proportion of the resident stoats and, with minimal re-invasion, the population has been reduced to a level that allows kiwi to breed and chicks to survive through to the safe weight of 1200-grams.

Traps are loosely spaced at 200-metre intervals on lines about one kilometre apart, and are checked 12 times during the year. The traps are baited with eggs sponsored by Zeagold Foods Limited. Sometimes salted rabbit meat, shipped from Canterbury, is used to vary the bait, and often leads to more feral cats being captured.

Size of Area under Protection

The Moehau Environment Group’s protects 7900 hectares immediately to the south of the area treated by DOC’s trappers, substantially extending the area cordoned off against stoats.

Lettecia says the group felt that extending the kiwi sanctuary further south, passed the narrowest point of the peninsula, would have a huge positive impact by slowing stoat migration north—especially if targeted in the narrow “bottleneck” area. Combining the two project areas had made Moehau the largest area under predator control to protect kiwi in New Zealand.

Biggest Challenge

A big challenge is make sure the Group’s work is linked to all the other good conservation work happening on the Coromandel. Because so much of the sanctuary is outside DOC-managed land, memoranda of understanding to cover the trapping work have been signed with many landowners.

Another challenge faced by the group is sourcing enthusiastic volunteers to help. The kiwi sanctuary’s location in the remote under-populated northern Coromandel means the group relies on international volunteers coming to stay and lend a hand.

Biggest successes

Up to 2008, DOC monitored how many kiwi chicks survive each season to find out if the predator control is successful—at least 20 per cent have to survive to adulthood for the kiwi population to increase.

The combined efforts at Moehau have meant the area has consistently achieved one of the highest kiwi chick survival rates in New Zealand. In fact, the survival rate at Moehau has been the highest of any kiwi protection project in New Zealand, with an average of 70 per cent of chicks surviving to 6 months.

These results gave DOC enough confidence in the success of the predator control programme to stop the intensive telemetry monitoring of Moehau’s individual kiwi. Since 2008, monitoring has been pared back to the less intrusive kiwi call count surveys. A 2009 population survey estimated a 98% increase in the number of kiwi recorded at Moehau between 2000 and 2009, roughly a 10% increase each year. Annual call count monitoring since then has shown kiwi numbers continuing to increase.

“Kiwi numbers have doubled on Moehau in the last nine years and we are hearing kiwi at sites where they haven’t been heard before” Lettecia says. “So their distribution is growing as well as their numbers.”

Funding

All traps are constructed by volunteers, with funding for materials coming from Environment Waikato. Kiwis for kiwi has provided ongoing funding to help cover the actual work—cutting track lines and baiting the traps.

Since January 2005, 700 traps have been set in the area. So far, more than 1300 stoats and weasels have been captured in the Moehau Environment Group’s Kiwi Sanctuary.

Moehau Environment Group now also supplies other conservation groups in the region with traps for their predator control. “We are all striving for the same goal—to see kiwi and other wildlife thrive on the Peninsula, so it makes sense to support each other” Natalie says.

Alongside its trapping work, the Group also plays an active role in environmental and ecological education. Each summer its volunteers run a series of guided walks, boat trips and a junior ranger programme at local campgrounds. The programme includes ’Kiwi night adventures’ where participants have the opportunity to hear wild kiwi calling at night.

The Most Important Things

Natalie feels it is important to try and make sure efforts are well-integrated with any other agencies or community groups who may be active in the area—a combined approach will produce the best results for kiwi.

Managing dogs is also vital. Each busy summer season, the Moehau Environment Group works with other community groups on the Coromandel to run an awareness campaign about the risk dogs pose to kiwi. “Now that stoats are under control, the biggest threat to kiwi on Moehau is likely to be from wandering dogs” says Natalie. Alongside advertisements in newpapers and on radio, visitors to the region are greeted by a large billboard near the Kopu Bridge, reminding them that ‘Dogs that roam kill kiwi’.

The group also works with DOC to promote and run regular kiwi avoidance training for dogs

Contact Details

If you would like to help with the work of the Moehau Environment Group, or would like further information, contact any of the following people:

Natalie Collicott (07) 868 3054

Lettecia Williams (07) 866 6626

Email: info@meg.org.nz