Kiwis for kiwi

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Kiwis for kiwi - Tamsin Ward-Smith

Her part-time contract with the Trust sees Tamsin coordinating the on the ground implementation of the Kiwis for kiwi strategy for the eastern brown kiwi region.It a huge area with kiwi distributed over 1,400,000 hectares from the northern Ruahine Ranges in the south up to the Kaimai—Mamaku Ranges in the north.

Her role involves close communication with the many different community and iwi led projects in action to identify source sites of kiwi for ONE, coordinating dog catching teams, and overseeing the flow of kiwi eggs from the wild to kiwi incubation, rearing and creching facilities, and back out to kiwi kohanga sites.  Her working life began at DOC’s Boundary Stream Mainland Island re-establishing kiwi in the 800 ha forest, and then to Cape Sanctuary to establish brown kiwi and little spotted kiwi on the 2500 ha predator controlled peninsula.  Both projects were hands-on with source populations, Operation Nest Egg programmes and incubation facilities which placed her well for the role for K4K.

Tamsin is also involved with some of the national tasks such as providing support for the kiwi avoidance training programme for dogs and owners.

Why kiwi?

Tamsin was born in the UK and grew up on the rugged coastline of northwest Cornwall spying on birds and badgers.  After her family moved to NZ in 1992, she completed a BSc in Zoology and MSc in Ecology and Environmental Sciences at Massey University working on kiwi.  The fieldwork took her to many remote corners including Te Urewera, Lake Waikaremoana where she worked alongside some notable human kiwi legends.  And that’s where it all began. “There is just something about kiwi.  They have such attitudes, they are so staunch and yet so endearing and so vulnerable.  They really need our help whether they like it or not and it is that which continues to draw me to kiwi”. Tamsin has worked with kiwi for over 20 years including northern, western and eastern brown kiwi, Haast tokoeka, and little spotted kiwi.

High Point

So many.  “Some of the most satisfying days are when I am able to take someone with me while checking on kiwi.  Most people think they know what a kiwi looks like but often what comes out of a burrow is so unexpected and so completely unique that it can be a life changing moment for that person.  You never know who will become a kiwi crusader and there can never be enough of those either, young or old.  I am privileged that I have opportunities in my job to make this happen”.

Having been part of the Hawke’s Bay kiwi conservation scene for many years has also been a high point – particularly seeing projects which started over 20 years ago flourishing.  Populations that are now increasing, would otherwise be on the brink of petering out if it were not for the dedication and passion of community and iwi led groups, DOC and private initiatives.  It has been humbling to be part of this kiwi recovery effort.

Low Point

I’ve had a few heartbreaking kiwi moments in my time, that’s the nature of kiwi work.  The worst being the decimation of the Boundary Stream kiwi population by a ferret rampage after five years of so much effort.  While that episode was devastating it also made me realise that there is no time to dwell on set-backs.

Thoughts for the Future

Close contact with kiwi is always a buzz, there’s no doubt about that, but it will be when kiwi are again so numerous that humans no longer need to intervene that we will have succeeded. As eastern brown coordinator my goal is to connect kiwi workers and projects and provide support so that they can be as effective as possible, and so that we move closer to having kiwi from ‘endangered to everywhere’

Being part of such a passionate K4K team, focused on clear goals has makes me feel very positive about the long-term outlook for kiwi.