'Dogs' day out' designed to save kiwi

Kiwis for Kiwi is a nationwide umbrella group working with around 100 community. Photo / George Novak
Kiwis for Kiwi is a nationwide umbrella group working with around 100 community. Photo / George Novak

Introduced pests such as stoats, possums and rats might be major threats to New Zealand's dwindling kiwi population but another even more serious threat lies closer to home: dogs.

Michelle Impey, executive director of Kiwis for Kiwi, says dogs - whether they be pig or hunting dogs, farm dogs or just much-loved domestic pets - can be deadly for kiwi.

Unlike introduced pests which target eggs and young birds, dogs are the biggest killer of adult kiwi around the country and the number one cause of all kiwi deaths in Northland.

"It's a particular challenge, because people are happy with predators like possums or stoats being the bad guys - but dogs are family members," says Impey. "We want to reach dog owners and educate them in a friendly way about how to keep kiwi safe from their dogs."

Kiwis for Kiwi is a nationwide umbrella group working with around 100 community- and iwi-led groups at grassroots level to save kiwi populations.

It is raising awareness around the dog issue as it prepares for its second annual Great Kiwi Morning Tea on Friday October 21, part of its Save Kiwi Month.

Impey says the simplest thing to do to keep kiwi safe from dogs is either not taking dogs to areas where there are kiwi or keeping them supervised and controlled.

"Auckland dog owners aren't going to find their dog killing a kiwi when on a walk in the park but, if you are out of Auckland, be really mindful. One loose dog in a kiwi area can do a lot of damage in a small amount of time - and no one wants their dog to kill a kiwi."

Impey says one of the big issues around Auckland is people taking dogs ashore on island sanctuaries around the Hauraki Gulf, such as Motuora off Mahurangi, where young kiwi are "creched" until they are big enough to survive in the wold.

"It's just really disheartening when people see the sign saying dogs are not allowed ashore, so they sneak round the back to another beach," she says. "Everyone thinks 'my dog wouldn't kill a kiwi', but unfortunately that's not true."

Kiwis for Kiwi also works with DOC and community groups to hold regular kiwi avoidance training sessions for owners of dogs who live within kiwi areas.

Partnering with Kiwis for Kiwi to get the message across to dog owners is Bombay Petfoods, manufacturers of the Jimbo's brand. General manager Dave Allan says the company has come on board to sponsor a "morning tea" especially for dogs - and owners - as part of this year's Save Kiwi Month in October.

"No one wants to think of their faithful companion as being a killer but the fact is, dogs and kiwis don't mix," says Allan. "We want to work alongside Kiwis for Kiwi to help owners to take responsibility and make sure their dog isn't part of the problem."

The "doggy day out" will feature a canine morning tea, giveaways and prizes,and members of the Kiwis for Kiwi team will be on hand to provide information about keeping kiwi safe.

While kiwi populations nationwide are still in decline, despite the best efforts of both DOC and committed volunteers, Impey says there is hope.

"There are areas around the country where kiwi are being managed and there is predator control where numbers are increasing. We know that what we're doing works but we need to do it on a larger scale. We're still losing more kiwi than we're saving.

"But we're actually in spitting distance of being about to turn that around, especially in the North Island. There's reason to be hopeful, but there's still a lot of work to do."

*Register your interest for the Jimbo's Dogs for Kiwi Morning Tea at www.kiwisforkiwi.org

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