Extra 850 kiwi is target for Whanganui region

By Jamie Morton, Jordan Bond

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Charity Kiwis for Kiwi hopes there will be an extra 850 birds in the western region by 2021, taking the total to 8350 birds. Photo/FILE
Charity Kiwis for Kiwi hopes there will be an extra 850 birds in the western region by 2021, taking the total to 8350 birds. Photo/FILE

A new kiwi bird conservation strategy is expected to increase the population in the wider Whanganui region by almost 850 birds over the next five years.

Announced on Auckland's pest-free Motutapu Island on Friday, charity Kiwis for Kiwi aims to turn the 2 per cent decline rate of kiwi across the country into a 2 per cent increase by 2021.

The western region kiwi population - which mainly centres in Whanganui, Taranaki and the Central Plateau - currently sits around 7500 birds.

By 2021, Kiwis for Kiwi hopes that number will sit around 8350. Currently around 3300 birds are under management, and it's hoped that will grow to around 5000 in the next five years.

The population in the region is currently stable. To increase the population by 2 per cent, the western kiwi population needs to produce an extra 140 kiwi each year.

The report said Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautiri, which is south of Cambridge, has the potential to host the largest number of birds. Egmont National Park could also support up to 1000 adults.

Nationally, an estimated 68,000 kiwi remain in a country once home to millions; researchers estimate that the population stood at about 100,000 when it first became apparent several decades ago that our bird was on a fast-track to extinction.

The mission, drawing on an $11 million Government grant to save the kiwi, would rely on efforts by hundreds of conservation volunteers and private landowners all over the country to trap and poison pest predators.

Some species remain more threatened than others, but emergency conservation efforts have helped pull the most endangered - including rowi and Haast tokoeka, now numbering in their hundreds - back from the brink of extinction.

The Kiwis for kiwi effort works in step with the Department of Conservation's own decade-long kiwi recovery plan, which has a goal to lift the total kiwi population back to 100,000 by 2030.

By then, DOC wants populations rebuilt to 35,400 brown kiwi, 35,000 tokoeka, 2900 little spotted kiwi, 19,900 great spotted kiwi and 900 rowi.

The charity's trust chairman, Sir Rob Fenwick, said his organisation's strategy would increase the number of kiwi chicks in predator-free creches where they could safely grow and start reproducing, so their young could be moved to other predator-free areas to start new populations.

"It's like setting up an endowment fund for kiwi."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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