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High hopes for nesting season

The start of the 2020/2021 kiwi nesting season has been good for one of the most prolific kiwi conservation initiatives in the country.

The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust's (FLRT) Maungataniwha Kiwi Programme in inland Hawke's Bay collected eight eggs in the first two weeks of September, five of which were viable.

Maungataniwha Native Forest comprises 6120 hectares of native forest straddling the ridge system between the Te Hoe and Waiau Rivers in northern Hawke's Bay.

It is bordered to the north by Te Urewera and to the west by Whirinake Conservation Forest.

A third egg-lift was scheduled for last week and FLRT staffer Barry Crene said he expected to retrieve many eggs over the next month or so.

The Maungataniwha Kiwi Programme now involves 49 paired male kiwi, up by 11 from last season.

The FLRT hopes the 2020/21 kiwi nesting season will be a better one than last year's, when dry conditions across the North Island resulted in kiwi producing fewer eggs than normal.

More than half of the birds monitored as part of the Maungataniwha Kiwi Programme failed to build second-clutch nests or produce an expected second set of viable eggs.

The eggs collected by the FLRT are delivered to the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua for incubation.

The resulting chicks are sent to predator-proof enclosures to be reared until they are large enough to defend themselves against predators in the wild.

Fully-fledged chicks released back into the forest as part of the project have an approximately 70 percent chance of survival.

This survival rate contrasts starkly with the 5 percent chance that kiwi have of making it to adulthood if hatched in the bush and left unprotected against predators.

In addition to the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project, FLRT runs a series of native flora and fauna regeneration projects.

These include a drive to increase the wild-grown population of kakabeak (Clianthus maximus), an extremely rare type of shrub, and the re-establishment of native plants and forest on 4000 hectares currently, or until recently, under pine.

The FLRT was established in 2006 to provide direction and funding for the restoration of threatened species of fauna and flora, and to restore the ngahere mauri (forest lifeforce) in native forests within the Central North Island.

It runs eight main regeneration and restoration projects, involving native New Zealand flora and fauna, on three properties in the central North Island.

It also owns a property in the South Island's Fiordland National Park.

COLLECTING KIWI EGGS: Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust 'kiwi whisperer' Barry Crene collects the first two eggs of the Maungataniwha Kiwi Programme's 2020/2021 kiwi conservation season. Picture supplied