Kiwis for kiwi

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Kiwis for kiwi - Tongariro Kiwi Sanctuary

The Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary protects western brown kiwi.

The Sanctuary lies within the Tongariro Forest Conservation Area, in the central North Island, near Lake Taupo. The forest is about 20,000-hectares in size and has both logged and unlogged podocarp forest. Logging in the area stopped in the 1980s.

The trouble with dogs (and stoats)

Stoats are the main killers of kiwi chicks in Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary, while ferrets and dogs are a significant threat to adult kiwi.

In 2003, Tongariro Forest was made a ‘controlled dog area’, which means that only hunting dogs are allowed into the forest, and only if they have been through training that teaches dogs to avoid kiwi.

An example of progress

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is aiming to have a representative sample of more than 200 breeding pairs of western brown kiwi inside Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary by 2017.

DOC is researching whether large-scale aerial 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate) operations help more wild kiwi chicks survive. Among the questions are how often 1080 operations should happen to maintain and grow the kiwi population; and whether there are effects on other forest birds or Dactylanthus taylorii (commonly known as the wood rose). Results so far are positive and promising—not just for kiwi, but for the whole forest ecosystem.

The 1080 research has already led to changes in how Operation Nest Egg is being managed inside the Sanctuary. In the past, eggs were taken to Kiwi Encounter  to be hatched, and the chicks were then raised in a kiwi crèche until they weighed 1100 grams, which takes about 180 days. Now, chicks are bypassing the crèche and returning to the Sanctuary at less than two weeks old. Other chicks are being tagged at the nest. Reducing the time the chicks spend under intensive Operation Nest Egg management reduces costs.

The founding father

The first Operation Nest Egg kiwi, named Te Aukaha, was released into Tongariro Forest in 1997. By 2008, more than 100 Operation Nest Egg juveniles had been returned. Te Aukaha sired six chicks with his mate, Koha. He was found dead in August 2010 and, while the cause of death could not be determined, it coincided with numerous ferret predations in the area.