Whakatane seeing too many kiwi killed by dogs

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Department of Conservation Ranger Bridget Palmer with dead kiwi. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Department of Conservation Ranger Bridget Palmer with dead kiwi. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Whakatane has been trademarked as "The Kiwi Capital of the World", a title that Kiwi Trust volunteers, supporters and the wider community are proud promote.

Nowhere else in the world do kiwi live in people's backyards; in an urban environment.

However the title is under threat with another national bird being killed by a dog, only metres from a Whitehorse Dr resident's home last week.

The young chick, Mackie, was the focus of the New Year kiwi celebration at Ohope Beach School earlier this year.

Almost 200 people attended the celebration and sent Mackie into the wild with well wishes.

Department of Conservation partnership ranger Bridget Palmer said the post-mortem report confirmed a dog attack.

"The graphic description of Mackie's injuries takes your breath away.

"This bird had severe crush and shaking injuries over the lumbar and thoracic region- typical of a dog attack.

Basically this poor bird had been broken in half, with only the skin holding the bird together".

She said the response from some Whitehorse Dr locals had been incredible.

"It's almost like an informal Neighbourhood Watch team has been initiated to support the protection of their nocturnal neighbours."

People are still increasing the risk to kiwi by walking their dogs in Kiwi Zones.

Whakatane police and Search and Rescue volunteers were stunned on Monday when they responded to a call from a woman who had reportedly broken her ankle on 'the bird walk', Mokorua Scenic Reserve, only to find that she had a dog with her.

Dale Walker, SAR co-ordinator, was disappointed someone would ignore the "Kiwi Zone" signs at each end of the walking track, let alone a local resident.

Lynda Walter, Whakatane Kiwi Trust executive officer, said kiwi scent was irresistible to dogs and the birds could not escape.

"Most dog owners would never expect a kiwi to be anywhere other than in a forest or that their dog would be capable of killing one, but the reality is kiwi scent is irresistible to dogs and kiwi cannot escape. Because kiwi don't have a breastbone, even a playful nudge can kill them.

"Dog owners need to know where their dogs are at all times and keep them contained on their property," she said.

Mrs Palmer said the Department of Conservation's role was to protect kiwi.

"Kiwi are a living treasure, they are not found anywhere else in the world. Any dog can kill a kiwi, and it's well documented that the main cause of death to adult kiwi is dogs. This is about responsible pet ownership. If you live in a kiwi zone, and you own a dog, tie it up.

"Whakatane residents are fortunate to have kiwi right on our doorstep. We are The Kiwi Capital of the World. We have passionate individuals who really care about these birds and strive to protect the environment around Whakatane, but we can only do so much. Your dog is your responsibility."

The Department of Conservation and the Whakatane District Council are working with the local community to identify any uncontrolled dogs in the area.

Kiwi are protected under the Wildlife Act 1953. Dog owners could face prosecution under the Act of up to $50,000 or a prison sentence if it is proven that their dog has harmed kiwi or any other native wildlife.

Please report dogs seen in Kiwi Zones or uncontrolled dogs to WDC (07) 306 0500 or 0800 DOC HOT

- Rotorua Daily Post

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