Kiwi North offers a range of activities and fun experiences to be had from checking out the latest Museum exhibitions to discovering ancient tuatara and visiting "Glorat" a Grade II historic homestead built in 1886.

But probably the most popular attraction for both local and international visitors is the chance to get up close and witness live kiwi behaving as they would in a natural environment.

New Zealand's iconic bird is very precious to staff at Kiwi North, with the members of the husbandry team forming a unique bond with individual kiwi that have been housed in the nocturnal kiwi house there.

Kiwi North, on State Highway 14, is surrounded by both private land and bush reserves including Barge Showgrounds and the neighbouring kiwi habitat of Pukenui Forest. Photo/Google Maps
Kiwi North, on State Highway 14, is surrounded by both private land and bush reserves including Barge Showgrounds and the neighbouring kiwi habitat of Pukenui Forest. Photo/Google Maps

Not only does the husbandry team look after the kiwi's welfare and feeding regime, they also have extensive knowledge of the birds and the threats to their existence which is promoted and reiterated in their public encounters.

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With so many of these amazing creatures being killed in their natural habitat, one staff member has taken the care of kiwi and our other native animals a step further by introducing a trapping programme in the extensive grounds at Kiwi North.

The initiative, implemented by part-time husbandry officer Emma Doel, was kick-started with the supply of numerous predator traps obtained from Northland Regional Council's Biodiversity funding with a further contribution received towards pest control from Antiss Garland Charitable Trust.

As a result of this generous assistance, Doel has placed traps throughout the park in a bid to eradicate predators in the wild, such as the mustelid family of stoats, weasels, ferrets, plus possums and rats which are a real threat to kiwi, other bird life and the ecology in general.

Since Kiwi North is surrounded by both private land and bush reserves, traps have been carefully situated on the property's perimeter, through Millington Bush and known animal tracks where these pests can be humanely caught restricting their access to the neighbouring kiwi habitat of Pukenui Forest.

With bats the only mammal species previously present in New Zealand, pests, some of which are exhibited at Kiwi North, were introduced into NZ by Europeans from the late 1700s and were soon out of control, causing problems for indigenous species.

Stoats for example were introduced in 1884 to control rabbits and hares but shortly thereafter were out of control themselves. Scientists and bird-lovers warned that they would be a danger to our native birds, but their warnings went unheeded.

A big problem with stoats is the size of their families. A mother stoat can have up to 12 kits at a time. They have very good eyesight, good hearing and a strong sense of smell.

These predators move quickly, travelling long distances, are strong swimmers and also good at climbing. They prey on chicks and eggs in the nest and target every burrow and hollow for ground-nesting birds. If the opportunity arises, they'll kill more food than they need hiding the rest to eat later.

About 40 North Island brown kiwi chicks are killed every day by stoats. That's nearly 15,000 kiwi chicks killed each year, so the work DoC rangers, advocacy groups and people like Doel and the team at Kiwi North have done to reduce this threat is hugely important as no-one wants to see kiwi become extinct like the dinosaurs.

■ Natalie Brookland is collection registrar, Whangārei Museum at Kiwi North.