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How to save the kiwi

Element - - Front Page - By Ti­mothy Shiv­ers

The idea that our na­tional icon – the hum­ble kiwi – could be no more is un­speak­able for New Zealan­ders. Yet that is what we’re fac­ing. The kiwi pop­u­la­tion is de­creas­ing by ap­prox­i­mately two per cent a year, a statis­tic that could mean ex­tinc­tion on main­lain New Zealand within our life­time. For­tu­nately, in­creas­ing at­ten­tion is be­ing paid to th­ese crea­tures in an at­tempt to see our na­tional bird flour­ish once again.

Ki­wis for Kiwi, an in­de­pen­dent char­i­ta­ble trust formed a year ago, is lead­ing the charge for kiwi con­ser­va­tion. The or­gan­i­sa­tion supports es­tab­lished com­mu­ni­ties pro­tect­ing kiwi through­out New Zealand, en­sur­ing that they have the nec­es­sary funds and ma­te­ri­als for their work.

This Oc­to­ber, Ki­wis for Kiwi is look­ing to ex­pand its reaches with the first ever Save Kiwi Week, a cam­paign that aims to raise funds and aware­ness for the kiwi cri­sis. The in­au­gu­ral event will run from Oc­to­ber 14-20 and is a call to ac­tion for all cit­i­zens. Ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Michelle Im­pey says: “It’s about en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to get out and un­der­stand what they can do to help.”

A goal is to raise $100,000 which will pro­tect 1000 kiwi. There are five DOC sites and more than 85 in­de­pen­dently es­tab­lished com­mu­nity groups through­out the coun­try.

Th­ese com­mu­ni­ties have taken it upon them­selves to cre­ate pest-free sanc­tu­ar­ies. From in­stalling preda­tor-free fences to set­ting up trap lines to plant­ing trees; they’re elim­i­nat­ing the risks to kiwi sur­vival.

Prior to mam­malian con­tact kiwi used their feath­ers as cam­ou­flage on the for­est floor, al­low­ing them to hide from preda­tors that hunted by sight. How­ever, the in­tro­duc­tion of mam­mals such as stoats, rats, fer­rets and pigs – which hunt by smell – was bad news for the dis­tinctly scented kiwi. Now, th­ese preda­tors pose the big­gest threat to the kiwi pop­u­la­tion.

Of­ten aban­doned by their par­ents af­ter hatch­ing and un­able to de­fend them­selves un­til they reach a weight of one kilo­gram (at around six months old), 95 per cent of kiwi in un­pro­tected ar­eas are killed by preda­tors be­fore they reach breed­ing age. If they are lucky enough to reach this mile­stone, the three lead­ing causes of death are cars, fer­rets, and dogs. The lat­ter of th­ese is the fo­cus of a strong ad­vo­cacy push dur­ing Save Kiwi Week.

And while th­ese ef­forts may seem fu­tile in the face of de­press­ing sta­tis­tics, there is ev­i­dence that the work be­ing done is ef­fec­tive. In the Coro­man­del for ex­am­ple, where at least six sep­a­rate com­mu­nity groups ex­ists, the kiwi pop­u­la­tion is dou­bling ev­ery decade. Ac­cord­ing to Im­pey, it’s lit­tle ar­mies of cit­i­zens who are mak­ing enor­mous im­pact. For­mer All Blacks coach Sir Gra­ham Henry is join­ing the bat­tle to save the kiwi with a unique op­por­tu­nity. Those who reg­is­ter on the Ki­wis for Kiwi web­site will au­to­mat­i­cally be en­tered into a draw where one lucky win­ner will be cho­sen to hang out with Henry for the day, trav­el­ling to a nearby is­land sanc­tu­ary and re­leas­ing to­gether one spe­cial kiwi back into the wild.

Other spon­sors in­clude the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion, Trade Me, Air NZ, Mr. Vin­tage, and long-time sup­porter BNZ.

Right: Michelle Im­pey. Pho­tos: Ti­mothy Shiv­ers

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