Wiggle and Stevie get a big welcome

By Kristin Edge

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SNAPPED: Mike Mead from Arizona in the United States gets a photo on his iPad to send to family back in the States. PHOTOS/JOHN STONE
SNAPPED: Mike Mead from Arizona in the United States gets a photo on his iPad to send to family back in the States. PHOTOS/JOHN STONE

About a hundred Kiwis with a few foreigners in the mix witnessed the release of two very special kiwi at a Whangarei Heads farm.

Wiggle and Stevie, the kiwi birds, took centre stage at the release on Pauline and Dave Asplin's property on Wednesday.

The healthy birds, weighing in at 1kg each, were taken around the interested group of locals and international visitors and while there was strictly no touching, everyone got a close up look at New Zealand's iconic bird.

Todd Hamilton, of Backyard Kiwi, said the project to reduce the number of predators in the Whangarei Heads area had paid dividends with the kiwi population continuing to increase. Locals and visitors to the Heads were encouraged to keep their dogs on a leash.

"You can be a dog owner in Whangarei Heads but God help you if you let your dog wander," Mr Hamilton said.

The last kiwi killed by a dog at the Whangarei Heads was recorded on April 2, 2014.

Mr Hamilton, who has been at the centre of Northland efforts to boost the kiwi population for the past 15 years, said kiwi numbers on the Whangarei Heads had grown from just 80 in 2000, to more than 675 at last population count.

Wiggle and Stevie had both grown up on Limestone/Matakohe Island and made the short transfer in a box to Whangarei Heads.

American visitor Mike Mead said it was a privilege to get so close to a kiwi.

He sailed into Whangarei in November 2014 and this was the first time he had seen a kiwi.

"It's so amazing. We couldn't go home with out seeing a real kiwi," he said.

Farmer Dave Asplin said the kiwi release was most welcome.

Only the night before he had heard a kiwi call from the paddock near the main house, and foot prints were discovered near the old cowshed buildings.

Since moving to the property 18 months ago, he had fenced and planted waterways and created ponds to encourage bird life.

"To have kiwi on the farm was special.

"I've also been trapping and laying baits to get rid of the stoats to give the kiwi an even better chance," he said.

Wiggle and Stevie were carried in boxes to two separate burrows that had been dug by Mr Hamilton.

Children helped pick grass to make a bed in the burrow Wiggle was released into.

All kiwi that are released are microchipped so they can be identified during monitoring.

- Northern Advocate

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