Captive-bred kiwi have been released into Kaweka Forest Park to boost the wild population.
This is a joint initiative by the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA), the Department of Conservation (DOC) and other partners.
Kiwi Birdlife Park, Orana Wildlife Park, Rainbow Springs Nature Park and Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, all ZAA-accredited facilities, provided eight birds for release into their new home at the Kaweka Forest Park this year.
The eastern North Island brown kiwi were released after thorough health checks and a short Air New Zealand flight to reach Hawke's Bay, the most flying a kiwi will ever do in its lifetime.
Hawke's Bay Mana Ahuriri kaumatua Piri Prentice welcomed and blessed the birds, calling them Ngā Manu Huna — the birds that conceal themselves — an old term early Māori would use to refer to kiwi.
The chosen kiwi were selected by the ZAA Kiwi Species co-ordinator, Todd Jenkinson, who also makes decisions for the breeding programme.
"A lot goes into selecting the right birds for release," said Mr Jenkinson. "The kiwi we've chosen are important because they are breeding-age adults and will introduce new genes into the wild population."
The release was faciliatated by Kelly Eaton, from DoC, with assistance from Tipene Cottrell, from Mana Ahuriri, approved handler Deb Harrington, from ECOED, and pilot Chris Crosse, from East Kaweka Helicopters.
North Island brown kiwi on the eastern side of the North Island require the most help to reach a population increase of 2 per cent per year, the national goal for each species of kiwi, supported by Kiwis for kiwi, DoC and other agencies to reverse the decline of our iconic bird.
Kaweka Forest Park hosts its own kiwi programme managed by the Environment, Conservation and Outdoor Education Trust (ECOED) with support from DoC and Kiwis for kiwi, which has seen over 200 young kiwi released back into the forest at a stoat safe weight.
With over 700 traps within and surrounding the park, serviced by ECOED, DoC, Panpac, volunteers and park users, Kaweka Forest Park was selected as a good new home for the captivity-raised birds. Their beginnings in a captive environment don't pose much of a challenge for kiwi headed out into the real world.
"Kiwi have very strong hard-wired instincts and adapt to the wild quickly," said Jenkinson.
"During their time in the programme, zoo staff provide multiple opportunities for the birds to forage naturally and, before release, they have an adjustment period for natural day/night hours."
This release follows one in Taranaki in November, which saw kiwi from Otorohanga Kiwi House, Rainbow Springs and Te Puia join the wild population at Egmont National Park.