MAKING HISTORY: Rarely seen, even by New Zealanders, an eager crowd bustles Kiwis for Kiwi advocate Wendy Sporle as she cradles a soon-to-be-released Northland brown kiwi. - PHOTO/Peter Grant
April 13 is a date that will go down in history with the release of 14 Northland brown kiwi to Maranui Conservation, a privately-owned 425 hectare tract of native bush on the slopes of the Brynderwyns.
Reclaimed overnight from their nursery on Motuora Island by Department of Conservation specialists, the seven males and seven females were carried into the bush in their burrow boxes by relays of the public and strategically placed for release in the dead of night.
Marunui Conservation managing director, Catherine Hawley, welcomed a crowd of around 300 gathered to witness the event, and thanked support groups, volunteers and local iwi, recognising their kaitiaki (guardianship) role in the release programme.
Marunui spokesman, John Hawley, says the new environment will suit the kiwi.
Each bird is numbered and fitted with a tracking device with considerable interest in the information monitors can gather – meanwhile volunteers will be able to keep track of them in their new environment.
Measured by the length of their beaks, several of the birds are already either at or close to breeding age.
The vision started 25 years ago by the late Teddy Goldsmith and his wife Katherine, has seen what was once a very vulnerable environment transformed following a decade-long pest eradication programme.
Though the kiwi are free to roam, bait lines, bait stations and traps for ferrets, stoats, weasels and feral cats will help to ensure their safety in the wild.
Neighbours have embraced the initiative, both as volunteers and supporters of the dog kiwi aversion programme. Dogs are the main threat to adult kiwi.
More kiwi releases are planned over the next few years with the goal being to establish a self-sustaining population.
On a sparkling autumn afternoon a waiata (song) was performed for the gathering by pupils of Mangawhai Beach School.
FOOTNOTE: The first surveillance using the Department of Conservation tracking device has shown all 14 kiwi were located and still within the release area. The birds will be monitored weekly for the next six weeks.