Owhata the injured kiwi returned to wild after being caught in possum trap

By Peter de Graaf

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Wendy Sporle with Owhata, the kiwi she nursed back to health after its leg was caught in a trap, at Mangamuka Marae.
Wendy Sporle with Owhata, the kiwi she nursed back to health after its leg was caught in a trap, at Mangamuka Marae.

A kiwi badly injured in a possum trap has been returned to the wild after 12 days of rehab.

The kiwi, named Owhata, was found in a leg-hold trap near Mangamuka in the Far North last month by a Top Energy worker. He rushed the adult female kiwito Kaitaia vet Lesley Baigent.

Ms Baigent said Owhata was lucky to survive.

"She was in a very bad state. She was dehydrated, her foot was cold and she was quiet, which is a bad sign because female kiwis are usually very stroppy."

Hours after Owhata's rescue a young male kiwi was found in another leg-hold trap nearby. It was flown to Massey University's Wildbase Hospital but was put down because its injuries were too severe. Most kiwi caught in leg-hold traps die.

Once stabilised Owhata was sent to Kiwis for Kiwi advocate Wendy Sporle, who runs a kiwi treatment facility from her Kaitaia home.

Ms Sporle said injured kiwi were voracious eaters and needed round-the-clock attention.

Owhata's diet of worms needed to be supplemented with ox heart which she initially rejected.

"I had to force feed her three times a day and sometimes in the middle of the night. Kiwi are hard to handle, especially when they're injured ... Each feeding session took around 90 minutes and was stressful for both of us."

After 12 days Owhata was well enough to be returned to the wild, making a happy ending for Save Kiwi Month.

Kaumatua Cyril Chapman said 25 people from local hapu, Kiwis for Kiwi and the Department of Conservation gathered at Mangamuka Marae to celebrate the bird's release.

"It was really important for us as tangata whenua and ahika to reaffirm our roles and responsibilities as a community to support the kaupapa of conservation, to support our ancient bird the kiwi, and to ensure that she's safe back in the environment she came from," he said.

DOC Kaitaia operations manager David Neho said the man who set the trap that caught Owhata had been identified.

"He is devastated, so hopefully positive lessons can be learnt from a bad situation.

"People need to be aware that kiwi can be living anywhere and that leg-hold traps must never be placed on the ground. To keep kiwi safe, traps should always be raised at least 70cm off the ground," he said.

- Northern Advocate

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