Almost a quarter of the little spotted kiwi introduced to Shakespear Open Sanctuary are now dead, as avian malaria takes its toll.
Since Hibiscus Matters reported on the number of kiwi deaths at Shakespear Open Sanctuary last issue (HM May 16) there has been confirmation of a further four deaths of adult birds. This brings the total deaths to nine adult birds, and one chick – a total of 40 adult birds were introduced to the sanctuary.
Last week Massey University scientists confirmed that the additional four deaths were all from avian malaria. This disease is caused by a protozoal parasite that infects several cell types, including red blood cells, of birds. It is transmitted by mosquitoes and so cases of avian malaria tend to occur in the warmer months.
Dr Stuart Hunter, senior lecturer in wildlife pathology, notes in his report that he has seen cases of this disease sporadically in kiwi, but that this is the first time he has seen this “cluster-like effect” in kiwi.