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The Paparoa Wildlife Trust, on the West Coast of the South Island, works on recovery programmes for two of New Zealand’s threatened species - great spotted kiwi/roroa and blue duck/whio.

The Trust’s mission is to be recognised as a professional conservation organisation that fosters both community involvement and ecological enhancement.

Its major goal for great spotted kiwi is the species’ continuity—that means establishing secure self-sustaining populations in the South Paparoa Range.

When the Trust began in 2006, it was thought that recruitment of juvenile kiwi into the adult population would be too low to guarantee the long-term survival of great spotted kiwi in the Paparoa Range. The prevailing thinking was that kiwi in unmanaged areas were rapidly diminishing due to mammalian predators.

The Paparoa Wildlife Trust therefore decided to focus its energy on Operation Nest Egg as the best use of limited resources and as a way to immediately benefit the kiwi population. Operation Nest Egg had also not been used with great spotted kiwi before, and therefore the trial was warranted, says Jo Tilson, project coordinator and a founding Trustee. But the challenge for a small community group was huge.

Achieving the Trust’s goal for great spotted kiwi needs a committed and skilled team, sufficient funding and astute communication and relationship building, she says. “We want the local community to own and enjoy the project. They’re the key elements to make sure we get young and old participating, which is what we need to ensure that the project flourishes and remains true to the mission statement.”

On the ground, a particular challenge the Paparoa Wildlife Trust faces is to increase what is known about great spotted kiwi. To that end, its work is helping to clarify a number of the species’ behavioural characteristics, including how many eggs a pair normally lay, what role the females play in incubation, and whether Operation Nest Egg could be used successfully to build great spotted kiwi numbers.

The Trust’s work has delivered a resounding ‘yes’ to the last question and, in 2010, opened the South Island’s first predator-free crèche for young great spotted kiwi chicks.

Size of area under protection

Predator control is currently under way on 2500 hectares along riverbed habitat. While this mainly protects whio, it may have positive spin-offs for great spotted kiwi, Jo says. The trapping is managed 100% by local community volunteers.

Monitoring adult kiwi is currently restricted to 4000 hectares in two main sites along the Paparoa Range. Chicks resulting from eggs harvested from these birds are returned to the area and are free to roam along the vast expanse of the Paparoa Ranges.

Biggest challenge

The biggest challenge to-date was in the summer of 2008–2009, when five out of seven newly released chicks died. Jo says the deaths were unexpected as the birds were in apparent good health while on an island crèche in the Nelson region. Following their translocation, five birds died quickly, cause unknown. Staff were devastated, says Jo. The experience led to a lot of changes and improvements were made to release protocols.

Since then, and with the Trust’s own kiwi crèche in operation, not a single bird has been lost post-release.

For the future, the big challenge obtaining ongoing long-term funding to pay for project costs and for the field team to carry out the work. Jo says that while the Paparoa Wildlife Trust has been fortunate in obtaining funding from a local mining company, ROA Mining, as well as Kiwis for kiwi, this funding is never guaranteed for more than one year and cannot be depended on. If funding cut backs occur, the Trust may need to change the focus of its work.

Biggest successes

A significant success for the Paparoa Wildlife Trust was building the predator-free 12.5-hectare crèche, called ‘Bois Gentil’ (French for ‘friendly forest’), which has improved the survival of juvenile kiwi. The crèche would never have materialised without the generosity of a private individual who believed in the project and wanted to give something back to the area.

Which leads to a second major success for the Trust—the breadth and depth of support it receives from financial sponsors such as Kiwis for kiwi and the ROAMining Company, and those who offer ‘in kind’ support. “These tend to be smaller contributions but they really help the project team on a day-to-day basis,” says Jo Halley, the Trust’s kiwi ranger.

The one most important thing

The success of the Trust’s projects for both great spotted kiwi and whio depends on the level of commitment of trustees, paid staff and volunteers, along with sustained support from the local community, iwi and other interested parties. In recent years, DOC’s Greymouth Area office has been a huge supporter. It now drives the whio recovery project, while the Paparoa Wildlife Trust’s limited staff and resources are directed solely towards great spotted kiwi/

Jo says: “The continued existence of these species in the South Paparoa Range requires skilled, enthusiastic and dedicated participants to embrace the Paparoa Wildlife Trust’s recovery project, our mission, our goals and our strategy to achieve them.”

Contact details

If you would like to learn more about the group and its work and/or volunteer your efforts, contact Jo Halley at:

Email: jooutdoors@yahoo.com

Email: kiwi2@pwt.org.nz

Phone: 03 738 0041

Postal address: Paparoa Wildlife Trust, PO Box 9, Blackball, Greymouth 7804