A Hawke's Bay kiwi with a special connection to music legend Sir Paul McCartney has been released back into the wild.
Bubbalicious, who was reared at Cape Sanctuary, shot to internet stardom after appearing in a video Sir Paul posted on Facebook while in Hawke's Bay ahead of his concert in Auckland in December.
Sir Paul's video with Bubbalicious and Cape Sanctuary manager Beau Fahnle on December 17 was viewed more than 450,000 times and received more than 32,000 reactions.
The bird is one of nearly 200 to have been taken as an egg from Maungataniwha Native Forest as part of Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust's (FLRT) Maungataniwha Kiwi Project which comes under the BNZ Operation Nest Egg initiative.
FLRT spokesperson Peter Heath said Bubbalicious' egg was incubated at Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua before being reared at Cape Sanctuary until he was big enough to fight off predators such as stoats, cats and rats.
He was released back into Maungataniwha Native Forest in northern Hawke's Bay about six weeks ago and is doing well, Mr Heath said.
Bubbalicious is being tracked but the trust is letting him settle in before they properly check up on him.
Cape Sanctuary is one of a number of predator-free "creches" used to rear the chicks, he said.
FLRT also announced yesterday that well-known Hawke's Bay conservation specialist Tamsin Ward-Smith has joined the trust to assist with expanding its kiwi conservation work.
She will be overseeing the development of chicks like Bubbalicious as well as working with the predator-proof sanctuaries they are raised in.
"It can be particularly tough for chicks that are creched from early December through until January, when conditions are dry and food hard to find," she said.
"Some chicks may need supplementary feeding with food drops, huhu grubs or worms, or some may even need to return to captivity for a bit longer.
"It will be my job to manage this for Maungataniwha chicks, wherever they are being creched, until they're large enough to be taken back home to the forest."
FLRT has been working with Napier City Council to increase the chick capacity of council-owned kiwi rearing facilities in anticipation of an increase in chicks out of the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project.
An additional 22 outdoor kiwi runs are being built at these facilities with trust funding which is hoped to ease some of the pressure for safe nursery places, Ms Ward-Smith said.
Ms Ward-Smith is also the eastern region brown kiwi co-ordinator for Kiwis for Kiwi, the only national charity dedicated to protecting kiwi and is involved with setting up "kohanga" sites where the species can be reintroduced safely and effectively.