Icon under threat
Cuddling a kiwi chick is just like holding a rugby ball – you need soft hands, Sir Graham Henry says.
The former All Blacks coach posed for a photo with a 9-day-old chick at Auckland Zoo last week for the launch of the inaugural Save the Kiwi Week, for which he is an ambassador.
‘‘I feel very privileged. I guess not many people get to hold a kiwi chick,’’ Sir Graham says.
‘‘It wriggles a bit but it’s not too bad if you know what you’re doing.
‘‘I have delicate hands. I’m not called Ted for nothing, you know. I do have some cuddly qualities. ‘‘I’m a big softie really.’’ Mr Henry joined the Kiwis for Kiwi Trust last year to raise awareness of the plight of our national bird.
Despite huge conservation efforts, an average of 27 kiwi are killed by predators every week, the trust says.
Experts believe that at this rate, kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime.
‘‘Imagine that,’’ Sir Graham says. ‘‘Then we’d have to find something else as our national symbol . . . like a wallaby.
‘‘What’s pushed my buttons is that they’re part of the national identity. Everywhere you go, people know the kiwi – both the bird and the people.
‘‘I like them. They’re understated. They tend to hide away and only come out when it’s time for business. A little bit like Richie McCaw – he’s like that.’’
The push for Save the Kiwi Week is predator control.
A single roaming dog can wipe out a kiwi population in days.
In areas where predators are controlled, 50 to 60 per cent of chicks survive.
In areas not under management, 95 per cent of kiwi die before reaching breeding age.
The trust wants to raise $100,000 towards predator control.
Kiwis for Kiwi executive director Michelle Impey says Save the Kiwi Week, which was from October 14 to 20, was also about raising the national icon’s profile.
‘‘Research carried out last year found that only half of New Zealanders knew that kiwi were in decline,’’ she says.
‘‘We can reverse the decline. With support from two-legged Kiwis, our bird can flourish.’’
To make a donation, to be in the draw to win a trip releasing kiwi back to the wild with Sir Graham, to find out what is happening in your community and to find out how you can help, go to kiwisfor kiwi.org.
Up close: Former All Blacks coach Graham Henry cuddles a kiwi for a campaign to save our national icon.
Go to aucklandcityharbournews. co.nz and click on Latest Edition to see former All Blacks coach Graham Henry cuddle a kiwi.