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Kiwis for kiwi - Cape Kidnappers & Ocean Beach

Known as the Cape Kidnappers and Ocean Beach Wildlife Preserve Partnership, its aim is to increase the diversity and abundance of native species that would naturally have been found in the peninsula’s coastal ecosystems, including land and sea birds. Among them are the eastern race of brown kiwi.

Preserve manager, Tamsin Ward-Smith, says the coming 10 years should bring some spectacular increases in the abundance of individual species. For example, she expects the bellbird/korimako population to exceed 2000 within the next five years, with birds spilling out into the surrounding landscape.

One thing that makes the Cape Kidnappers restoration project particularly significant is its integration of conservation and economic goals. The species restoration is being done within a rural landscape, including farming and forestry operations, and Tamsin says it may become a role model for other farmers.

In 2007, the landowners completed a 9.6 kilometre pest-proof fence across the base of the peninsula, from coast to coast, and have reduced pests to low levels to create a protected area behind the fence.

Conventional restoration tools are being used – excluding domestic stock from forest patches, re-planting selected habitats, species re-introductions and intensive ground-based animal pest control. The latter includes more than 1200 mustelid traps and 120 cat traps, a network of bait stations for rodents and shooting goats and rabbits.

In August 2008, five eastern North Island brown kiwi were released, and are being monitored thanks to Kiwis for kiwi sponsorship. One bird, Hine, came from Ruahine Forest Park, and had been hatched and reared at Kiwi Encounter, Rotorua, as part of Operation Nest Egg™.

The other young birds came from eggs sourced from the privately owned Maungataniwha forest block where another Hawke’s Bay kiwi project is under way. These kiwi were hatched and raised in captivity at the Napier City Council’s kiwi breeding facilities.

In future, more Operation Nest Egg kiwi juveniles will be released into the preserve from a number of Hawke’s Bay locations, including wild populations in Maungataniwha forest and the Kaweka and Ruahine Forest Parks, as well as captive-raised birds.

Size of area under protection

A predator-free natural habitat is being developed over 2200 hectares. The area is large enough to support self-contained and viable populations of several species of endangered flightless birds.

Along with kiwi, other land bird species released into the preserve are robins/toutouwai, tomtits/miromiro, riflemen/tititipounamu, whitehead/tataeko and brown teal/pateke. The future may also see releases of red-crowned parakeet/kakariki, fluttering shearwater, saddleback/tieke, and takahe.

Biggest challenges

Tamsin has found that finding the right job to suit each volunteer is a big challenge. ‘Some kiwi work is very physical and tiring, while other work, such as trapping, can seem detached. Even though some volunteers may not be out trudging the hills their role is just as important,’ she says.

Having dedicated volunteers has also been a huge bonus for the project. ‘A few years ago we used to drive the eggs to the incubation facilities after we had spent the night outside a nest. We now have a regular core of volunteers who we gratefully hand the eggs to in the morning to complete the next step. For me it is always a relief to hand them over to someone else, and much safer for all.’

Biggest successes

A major milestone for the Cape project was completing the fenced and largely predator-free preserve.

Returning kiwi to the Cape peninsula after more than 100 years is another. ‘Being able to share that day with so many volunteers, iwi, landowners, local people and sponsors was wonderful,’ Tamsin says.

By 2011, about 60 kiwi will have been released into the preserve and the population should build by about 20% a year, to 1000-1500 individuals. Once carrying capacity is reached, surplus kiwi will be released into inland Hawke’s Bay ranges, which may be enough to sustain a wild population of about 6700 kiwi.

The one most important thing

‘Personally, the advice I would give anyone thinking about setting up a kiwi project is to collaborate to share the work load and get as many involved with as many useful skills as possible,’ Tamsin says. ‘We have volunteers who assist in the field, volunteers who drive kiwi eggs around the county, people who check traps, facilities that raise the birds, and the list goes on.’

Also vital to its success is support from the landowners, iwi, Kiwis for kiwi, Sirtrack (which sponsors radio transmitters) and the Department of Conservation.

Successful kiwi projects also need a couple of strong leaders at the helm who can hold it all together and keep people motivated, she says.

Contact details

If you would like to learn more about the Cape Kidnappers and Ocean Beach Wildlife Preserve, or volunteer your efforts, contact Tamsin Ward-Smith, at:

Email: cape.kidnappers@xtra.co.nz

Phone: 06 833 6537

Mobile: 027 2273 543

Postal address: 90 Kennedy Road, Napier

Website: www.oceanbeachnz.co.nz – follow the link to the newsletters