Following in the footsteps of its rescuer a kiwi chick has hatched in a car en route to Rotorua.
Taranaki Kiwi Trust's Kevin Stokes retrieved a kiwi egg from a nest in Uruti, near the Waitara River in the Taranaki, after responding to a 'desertion' code given off by the transmitter on a male kiwi.
"As I lifted the egg from the burrow I could see the chick had already begun to hatch and part of the chick's beak was poking through a 3cm hole in the shell," said Mr Stokes.
"I called the Kiwi Encounter team in Rotorua for some advice and carefully placed the egg in a chilly bin beside a hot water bottle, and supported it so it didn't roll around."
Mr Stokes then got behind the wheel to make the long 3 1/2 hour drive to Rotorua.
"I'd only reached Awakino, less than an hour into the trip, when I heard the egg crack. And the cracking kept going. I just kept an eye on the chick, gave him a bit more room in the chilly bin to get out of the egg and by the time I reached Kiwi Encounter the chick was completely hatched, looking well, very alert and nicely fluffed up," he said.
Mr Stokes himself was born in a car en-route to the then maternity hospital in Waitara and says it's ironic that the first egg he delivered to Kiwi Encounter hatched in the car beside him.
Greeted by Kiwi Encounter staff Carole Dean and Bev Wilkinson on arrival in Rotorua, it's the first time the team has received a chilly bin with a freshly hatched kiwi chick inside.
"We were sort of expecting a hatched chick when Kevin arrived, but it was still a surprise. The chick is progressing extremely well and was referred to as 'Rock Star' yesterday due to its progress, which is pretty much text book," said said Ms Wilkinson.
Kiwi Encounter is nearing the end of its kiwi hatching season with 8 eggs in incubation, 3 partially hatched and 89 hatches for the season.
Rainbow Springs' involvement in kiwi conservation began in 1995 with the arrival of its first egg and the hatchery has grown over the years to become the largest kiwi hatching facility in New Zealand, successfully incubating and hatching brown kiwi eggs from around the North Island.
Kiwi Encounter's role in kiwi conservation is vital.
Most kiwi chicks don't survive in the wild due to predators such as stoats, so staff from the Department of Conservation and independent kiwi organisations, lift the partially incubated eggs from their burrows and deliver them to Kiwi Encounter to incubate and hatch.
Kiwi eggs take approximately 78 days to incubate, and slightly longer in the wild.
After hatching, the chicks are raised to a 'stoat-proof' weight of 1kg before being released back into the wild.
Kiwi Encounter also plays an important part in helping with kiwi research. The team is currently looking into making improvements to the artificial kiwi diet, lighting in nocturnal enclosures, the role of bacteria in egg shell contamination and coccidia (gut parasites) treatment trials.
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