Brown kiwi back after 50 years

By Hannah Norton

It has been 50 years since Northland brown kiwi could be heard foraging on the forest floor of the Brynderwyn Hills, crying to one another at dusk and dawn.

That's about to change.

Over the weekend 14 kiwi were released in the area, launching a project that could see 40 birds released over the next three years.

The birds - seven males and seven females - were raised on Motuora Island in the Hauraki Gulf as part of the BNZ's Operation Nest Egg.

Last Friday they were captured, with the help of Department of Conservation experts, and transported to Marunui Conservation, a privately owned 423ha stretch of forest protected by QEII National Trust Open Space Covenant, on the Mangawhai side of the Brynderwyn Hills.

On Saturday the birds - 14 is considered a founding population - were released in Marunui in front of more than 200 spectators, including local iwi.

Marunui Conservation spokesman John Hawley said the reintroduction will provide the Northland brown kiwi with another managed breeding site that will help support the future viability of the species.

"It is a very significant event for the Brynderwyns-Bream Tail area and for Marunui. It feels terrific to get to this point. It's taken 10 years of trapping to get the pests under control to the point that DoC will release the kiwi."

He believes the kiwi will thrive in Marunui, as Motuora Island had been harder hit by the drought and had no permanent streams.

"We have plenty of streams and wet gullies here, which they love," he said.

Marunui shareholders and volunteers have been trained in post-release monitoring techniques, and Mr Hawley says the number one threat to adult kiwi are dogs.

"Kiwi can have a long life of up to 60 years or more, so the loss of adults to dogs greatly affects breeding success," he said.

"Because of this the average lifespan for a kiwi is only 14 years."

To tackle this problem, Marunui held a dog kiwi aversion workshop for neighbours prior to the release.

"There's nothing stopping the birds travelling out of the property," he said.

"But the neighbours are on board, so that's great."

The Marunui forest is part of a larger area of mixed indigenous and exotic vegetation, which extends for 15km from Kaiwaka to the coastal cliffs of Bream Tail.

The Northland brown kiwi population has been reduced to approximately 8000 birds in very dispersed locations.

- Northern Advocate

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