A few years ago, Kiwi North had a rather elderly female ruru (morepork) called Marama who lived with the kiwi in the nocturnal kiwi house. She was mature when she arrived here more than 20 years ago after being hit by a car but, although unfit to be returned to the wild, had done well. The ruru's maximum longevity in the wild is believed to be 10 years.
In April 2011, Kiwi North was lucky to acquire her a young male companion named Whetu from Otorahanga Kiwi House. He was captive born and bred and was already 3 years old. The two ruru lived happily together in the kiwi nocturnal enclosure until Marama died in 2012. These small New Zealand owls are monogamous creatures and, if you are out during the night, you may hear them calling to each other. (This could also indicate rival males "duelling"). Now it was Whetu's turn to become lonely and he was not happy with just the company of kiwi. Also, morepork are territorial and Kevin Saxton (husbandry team leader) had to wear a hat when he went into the enclosure as Whetu saw him as an intruder and was adept at dive bombing.
Alyssa Salton, the head keeper of natives and farmyard at Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch, offered Whetu a new home. The park has a female ruru who needs company. After quarantine and two detailed health checks by vet Bruce Pickford, who found him in great condition, Whetu packed his bags (or rather was put in a custom-made box complete with perch) and taken to the airport. Kevin received this email from Christchurch:
"Just letting you know Whetu arrived safe and well. He ate overnight and seems quite settled. Will get your box cleaned up and sent to you in the next few days. Cheers Alyssa."
Whetu will be put into a cage next to his new female companion and, when they get used to each other and are housed together, the next chapter in their lives will begin.
Kiwi North will continue the morepork/ruru advocacy and perhaps one day may have other members of this charming owl species for visitors to observe.
Kiwi North (Whangarei Museum, Kiwi House and Heritage Park) is open daily from 10am to 4pm.