Hawke's Bay's Cape Sanctuary wildlife restoration project is about to take custody of 20 little spotted kiwi, as part of a complex translocation plan being implemented by the Department of Conservation and Kiwis for kiwi Trust.

Ten male birds from Kapiti Island will be transferred to the 2500-hectare sanctuary this week and they will be joined the following day by 10 female birds from Red Mercury Island off the eastern Coromandel Coast in a bid to establish a new viable population.

Cape Sanctuary owner Andy Lowe said he is thrilled to see this latest translocation to Cape Sanctuary taking place.

"The 11 little spotted kiwi which were transferred to the sanctuary last year have done well and bred this season, indicating that Cape Sanctuary will be a suitable stronghold for this species in the long term."

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Mr Lowe said the translocations from safe island environments at Red Mercury and Kapiti to the mainland Hawke's Bay will help the sanctuary achieve its 50-year vision of restoring coastal biodiversity in the region, and provide a new viable population of little spotted kiwi.

The plan for establishing a new home for little spotted kiwi at Cape Sanctuary involves the Department of Conservation, Cape Sanctuary, iwi from five rohe; Kiwis for kiwi, and Air New Zealand. It is designed to boost genetic diversity in little spotted kiwi across the North Island.

DOC's principal science adviser Dr Hugh Robertson said research by departmental and Victoria University scientists, over the past several years, indicates the genetic diversity of little spotted kiwi at several sites is lower than desirable, particularly at Red Mercury and Kapiti.

"This finding can be traced to the fact that New Zealand's entire population of 1700 little spotted kiwi is derived from five birds transferred to Kapiti Island from Ngai Tahu's rohe in South Westland more than 100 years ago. This systematic exchange of birds from site to site in the translocation plan will introduce to each population much-needed new genetic stock for breeding purposes."

Dr Robertson said he expects the transfers of little spotted kiwi from Red Mercury and Kapiti to the Cape Sanctuary will be completed by tomorrow.

- Cape Sanctuary, on Cape Kidnappers peninsula, is the largest privately owned and funded wildlife restoration project of its kind in New Zealand. The sanctuary is owned by the Robertson, Hansen and Lowe families.

The vision which extends more than 100 years is to return to peninsula the coastal communities of land birds, sea birds, reptiles and invertebrates that would once have existed.