New home for Kiwi
Torrential rain did not dampen the enthusiasm of around 200 people who gathered to mark the release of Little Spotted Kiwi into Shakespear Open Sanctuary on Saturday, April 29.
For many, it was their first opportunity to get up close to a Kiwi. Four of the birds were brought out by trained handlers for people to take a look at while the rest remained secured in wooden boxes.
Twenty Little Spotted Kiwis, which are the size of small hens with mottled grey feathers, were captured on Kapiti and Tiritiri Matangi Islands for release in the sanctuary. The only other mainland sanctuary to have this species is Zealandia, in Wellington. Getting them to the sanctuary has taken more than five years of work behind the scenes and cost almost $40,000. It is seen as the best chance of growing the population of this, our second most rare Kiwi.
The birds were welcomed with powhiri and speeches from Mayor Phil Goff , Captain Richard Walker of the NZ Defence Force and SOSSI chair Peter Jackson.
Councillors, local board members and representatives of organisations such as Hibiscus Coast Forest & Bird, as well as many SOSSI volunteers were present.
The birds had transmitters fitted and then Open sanctuary senior ranger Matt Maitland, accompanied by the Mayor and a small group of media, took the birds onto the Defence Force land for release.
As the first Little Spotted Kiwi to be introduced at Shakespear Open Sanctuary begin to explore their new environment this week, they are being closely monitored.
If they settle in well, and breed, it will be significant not only for the sanctuary but for the entire species.
Twenty birds from Kapiti and Tiritiri Matangi Islands were released into the sanctuary at the end of Whangaparaoa Peninsula on April 29 and 30. Conservationists hope that the release into a 500ha safe site could be a major boost for the population of this, our smallest and second most rare Kiwi.
The main breeding season runs across winter and spring, making it possible that the next generation of Kiwi could be born at Shakespear early next year.
More than 200 invited guests were at Te Haruhi Bay on April 29 to welcome the birds. After a powhiri and speeches, there was a chance to take a close up look, and photos, of the Kiwi, which were then taken into the sanctuary for release.
The project was only possible because of a large amount of work behind the scenes, including fundraising.
Shakespear Open Sanctuary (SOSSI) volunteers and rangers identified and blocked potential pathways where the birds could escape the pest proof fence. Volunteers also made transfer boxes and temporary nest burrows. Twelve people have been trained to monitor the birds via radio transmitters. This monitoring will be carried out almost daily to start with. Call count surveys will also be undertaken in due course to work out the population density.
The total bill for introducing a viable population of 40 birds into the sanctuary is expected to be around $68,000.
SOSSI chair Peter Jackson says the recent translocation cost around $38,000. A further 20 Kiwi will be released sometime between 2018-20 at a cost of $30,000. Enough money for the first release has been raised, with grants from Becroft Foundation, Foundation North, Kiwis4Kiwi, Auckland Council and donations from the public.
Open sanctuaries senior ranger Matt Maitland says the support, which has come in many forms, has been appreciated. “People were very keen to see it happen and whether they helped build boxes, made new barriers – including the major task of clearing and repurposing a retaining wall – or donated money, the community stepped up.”
He says the presence of Kiwi within the sanctuary will mean that the No Dog policy will be even more strictly enforced inside the pest proof fence and that people leaving the park at night need to be especially careful in case Kiwi are on the road.
Hibiscus Matters went with rangers to one of the release sites, deep within the sanctuary.
SOSSI’s Kiwi release has enabled some state of the art tracking technology to be trialled. Plant and Food Research is developing an automated tracking system – a network of antennae that scans for frequencies from the birds’ radio transmitters and can provide a lot of accurate information about their whereabouts and movements.
Open Sanctuaries senior ranger Matt Maitland says the system provides a longer time exposure than the snapshot that is obtained from hand-held monitoring devices. Reports come in automatically and can warn of any potential issues. The trial by Plant and Food Research scientists is taking place in collaboration with Auckland Council.