Ever wanted to meet a kiwi up close?

Auckland Zoo is offering a chance to do just that with a behind-the-scenes kiwi experience allowing people to meet newly hatched chicks as part of Operation Nest Egg - a kiwi recovery programme.

Coinciding with the kiwi hatching season, the Kiwi Experience will run from September to December each year, giving Aucklanders an opportunity to meet the latest chicks of the season.

Auckland Zoo birds team leader Todd Jenkinson said meeting a kiwi was a life-changing experience, and the new programme was a great development for conservation advocacy efforts.

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"The more people we get to connect with these little chicks, the more chance we have building a secure future for them."

The first three kiwi chicks of the season have already hatched at the zoo. The oldest is eight days old and the youngest two are only four days old.

The Operation Nest Egg programme involves taking kiwi eggs from the wild and hatching them in captivity, before reintroducing the birds to their original habitat.

When they turn about four weeks old, chicks are sent to a safe creche - either a predator-free island or mainland sanctuary - until they reach about 1kg.

Only then are they big enough to fend off most predators and able to be returned to the wild.

• Auckland Zoo's Kiwi Experience is available on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with a minimum age requirement of 6 years. For more information visit www.aucklandzoo.co.nz