When I first found out I would have the opportunity to carry out my internship at Kiwi North, I was living in the midwestern United States with over half a metre of snow on the ground. I’ve spent the past three years studying at Oregon State University in the United States in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in zoology. My goal for this internship was to gain a better understanding of animal and environmental conservation through a professional experience.
As an intern, I work as a part of the animal care team as they connect the community to wildlife conservation and the history of native species in Northland.
Kiwi North is part of a network of facilities partnered with the Department of Conservation to help re-establish the Northland brown kiwi population and habitat. The facility I work in serves as a transition house for the kiwi, ensuring they reach adulthood before being put back into the programme or being released to an existing habitat. To promote conservation and understanding of how the kiwi survives in the wild, we utilise a live feeding programme for the kiwi and the geckos consisting of locusts, mealworms, slaters, and more.
My role in animal care allows me to start each day with a routine visit to Disco the kiwi, removing food from the previous day and old plants, and doing a visual check to make sure she’s healthy as can be. Once I’ve checked in with Disco, I move on to cleaning and feeding the invertebrates, giving the locusts rolled oats with cat biscuits and fresh-cut grass, while the mealworms and wētā get freshly cut apples and carrots.
Once the invertebrates have been taken care of, I continue my day by checking on each gecko and spraying their enclosures with fresh rainwater, giving them access to drinking water and helping them to shed properly when necessary. They also receive a mixture of fruit pulp or locust nymphs for their feedings, which happens several times a week. I was also given the opportunity to redo each enclosure, giving them a more natural habitat and plenty of basking spots to stay warm.
When I look back at my internship, Kiwi North has been the perfect organisation when it comes to cultivating an environment where I have been fortunate enough to learn through people and animals alike. I’ll be forever grateful that I’ve been given this opportunity because I never would have imagined that I would be lucky enough to live and work in such a beautiful place, let alone with some of the most well-known species in the country.
– Cierra Freese is the animal care intern at Kiwi North