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THE Whinray Ecological Charitable Trust (WECT) shipped a baby kiwi to Rotorua’s Rainbow Springs Kiwi Facility earlier this month as part of a fight against the impending extinction of our national icon.

This coincides with Save the Kiwi Month this October.

The Whinray Scenic Reserve in the Motu area is roughly 87km north of Gisborne and has been active since 2006 to help halt the decline of brown kiwi numbers in the Gisborne-East Coast area.

Ecoworks NZ manager and Whinray Trustee Steve Sawyer said their work is part of a national programme with Kiwis for Kiwi Trust and the Department of Conservation (DoC) to raise the national kiwi population by 2 percent annually.

“We were worried that DoC did not have the resources needed, so we got the local Motu and Matawai communities together and within 24 hours a trust board was formed.”

“We focused on the Motu area because it still had a small but relatively intact brown kiwi population which is estimated to be around 50 birds.

“We are lucky the reserve was protected in 1905 and its podocarp-hardwood forest is pristine so we had a good chance to make a difference,” he said.

Kiwi eggs and chicks found at the Whinray Scenic Reserve are sent to kiwi husbandry specialists at the Rotorua facility for a general health check.

They are then returned to the kiwi crèche at Motu to gain weight and then released into the reserve.

“The Whinray reserve is known as a ‘Kiwi kohanga’ where we are basically raising and protecting as many chicks as possible which eventually filter back out into the Raukumara area and the Urutawa Conservation Area located 14km south of Opotiki,” said Mr Sawyer.

Mr Sawyer and his trust team found one baby kiwi had been laid in this clutch and it had hatched.

The chicks’ parents Tom and Judy were away feeding while the four-day-old kiwi was in the nest. This chick was the 16th from Whinray Scenic Reserve to be transported to Rotorua where it will grow to 475 grams, then returned to the Motu crèche later this month, where it will be protected in the stoat-free site and raised to 1000 grams so it can potentially defend itself against stoats if necessary.

“The crèche is completely predator free and contains large populations of weta, lizards, beetles, worms and other invertebrates which kiwi chicks eat,” he said. Extensive research proves around 90 percent of kiwi chicks are killed in NZ forests each year by stoats.

“Even though we raise money to run trappers the occasional stoat can get past traps and kill kiwi chicks.

“This is one of the reasons DoC uses 1080 as it is a highly successful way of controlling ship rats, possums, stoats, ferrets and weasels which prey on our native species.

“Introduced pests are destroying not only the rare native species we have, which are found nowhere else on earth but they are also eating the Raukumara’s and other forest parks across New Zealand and are doing irreversible damage.

“We don’t want the kiwi to be like the Huia, nine species of Moa and the other 55 extinct New Zealand bird species. Once our ecological taonga are gone people will never see them again,” he said. Mr Sawyer has 30 years of field experience working in the remotest parts of New Zealand and across the Pacific Islands and says that there is a ‘major extinction event’ going on right now in New Zealand.

While kiwi are the priority for their work, the trust also aims to protect and enhance all the area’s threatened species including North Island weka and robin, the whio (blue duck), falcon, kaka, rifleman and long tailed bats.

“We also hope to educate people about nature conservation. Our programme works really well because the local communities and farmers are extremely supportive.

“We have 65 families registered as members with the Trust and along with DoC we co-manage the reserve.

“Its a great team effort which is showing progress with the return of many of our endangered species,” said Mr Sawyer.

How to help

The Whinray Reserves Sponsor A Hectare project is a unique way for you, your family or your business to become involved in restoring and protecting wildlife. To Sponsor A Hectare go to https://www.whinrayecotrust.org.nz/sponsor-a-hectare to fill out a sponsorship form.

SAVING KIWIS: The precious four-year-old kiwi chick started its journey at Rotorua’s Rainbow Springs Kiwi Facility earlier this month for a health check and to gain some weight. Picture supplied
Kiwi Month