A Kiwi breeding stud has been allowed to retire after bolstering the endangered bird's population.
"Two Toes" has been released for the last time at the Tanekaha Community Pest Control Area in Northland.
He's free of his tracking device after 10 years of close fulltime monitoring and will retire with his "wife" Blinky in 800 hectares of predator-controlled farmland, native bush and pine forest on the edge of the Hikurangi swamp.
The Tanekaha community pest controlled area (CPCA) is part of the Hikurangi Living Water catchment, a 10-year partnership between Fonterra and the Department of Conservation (DoC) that works to improve the abundance and variety of native wildlife and water quality in significant dairying regions.
"Two Toes and Blinky have done a wonderful job," said Tanekaha CPCA co-ordinator Edwin Smith.
"This lovely pair has greatly bolstered the local kiwi population. They've produced hatchlings three times each year since we took over monitoring from DoC five years ago."
Two Toes was originally found injured and caught in a predator trap, then rehabilitated at the Whangarei Bird Recovery Centre before his release into Tanekaha 10 years ago. His injury caused him to lose one of his toes, hence his name.
In the last five years he and Blinky have produced many viable eggs at Tanekaha, which have been moved for hatching at Auckland Zoo before being released on Motuora, and predator-free Matakohe/Limestone Island in Whangarei Harbour.
Another three kiwi chicks have been successfully raised from the Tanekaha pair's hatchlings, to a less predator prone weight of 1.2kg, before being reintroduced to their natural habitat.
Tanekaha CPCA was launched by a group of 12 Fonterra farmers, who signed an agreement with Northland Regional Council in 2012 to establish the pest control programme.
"In the wild only 5 per cent of kiwi chicks survive because of predators, particularly stoats and feral cats. We're hoping for at least 60 per cent survival and these new males will attract other females so we can increase the population even further," says Edwin.
"It just shows what you can achieve with our kiwi population by tackling predators and giving these special birds a hand."
In Northland, Living Water works in the Hikurangi catchment that feeds into the Kaipara Harbour. The other Living Water catchments are: Pūkorokoro / Miranda on the Firth of Thames/ Tīkapa Moana; Waikato peat lakes focusing on lakes Areare, Ruatuna and Rotomānuka; Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere in Canterbury focusing on the Ararira/LII catchment; Awarua -Waituna in Southland focusing on Waituna catchment.