A kiwi sharing the name of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's daughter has hatched at the Pūkaha Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre.
Koha Te Aroha (gift of love) hatched last Friday, the day after Ardern had visited the centre.
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She was given the honour of naming the chick, and chose Koha Te Aroha.
The name references Ardern's daughter Neve, whose middle name is Te Aroha.
Ardern says the kiwi's full name represents Wairarapa iwi Rangitāne's generous gift back to New Zealand of Pūkaha - a 942ha forest reserve - that will happen in February 2021.
A Pūkaha Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre spokesperson said the Prime Minister's kiwi hatched at 6.30pm on November 8 and weighed just 306g. The chick's sex is not obvious but after six months can be determined through DNA testing.
The hatching follows the Prime Minister's visit to Pūkaha on November 7 where she was welcomed by Mike Kawana, the kaumātua for Rangitāne o Wairarapa, and invited to name one of the kiwi eggs waiting to hatch in an incubator.
A thrilled Jacinda Ardern – and now proud new 'kiwi' mother - was said to be ecstatic at the news of the successful hatching.
It was also the first time she had ever named a kiwi.
"It was humbling to be able to, for the very first time, name one of our most beloved birds. I thank Rangitāne o Wairarapa for giving me this special honour."
Ardern said the reciprocity of giving and love, also evident in her daughter's name, played a part in the decision.
"In the same way that I considered naming Neve Te Aroha, I thought about the people around us that had so much hope for our future and showed us incredible kindness and so it was in the spirit of giving, and the generosity of Rangitāne o Wairarapa who have gifted the land for Pūkaha, that Koha came to mind," she said.
The wildlife centre spokesperson said Koha Te Aroha was from a batch of kiwi eggs given to Pūkaha for hatching in 2019 through the Kiwis for kiwi programme, Saving the Kiwi.
This aims to reverse the decline of kiwi numbers in New Zealand and instead grow the overall kiwi population by 2 per cent annually.
It does this using Operation Nest Egg to stock a few predator-free sites, called kiwi kōhanga. These are usually islands, or predator-free fenced sanctuaries. Eggs are collected from the wild, incubated in a facility such as Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre, and the chicks released to the kōhanga at around 3 or 4 weeks of age.
There, they will grow, find a mate, and have chicks of their own. In time, the young kiwi will be removed and released to safe places in the wild.
Koha Te Aroha will spend next 20 days at Pūkaha gaining strength for the journey to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, a kiwi kōhanga site near Cambridge.
Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre is a wildlife reserve and captive breeding facility managed by the Pūkaha Mt Bruce board in partnership with Rangitāne o Wairarapa and the Department of Conservation.
Through captive breeding, they have successfully reintroduced North Island kākā, North Island brown kiwi and North Island kōkako into their unfenced forest reserve (formerly part of the original 70 Mile Bush).
Pūkaha aims to educate and inspire the general public about conservation and New Zealand wildlife through their Visitor Centre, daily talks and educational programmes. Pūkaha also works with whio (blue duck), pāteke (brown teal), and kākāriki.
About Operation Nest Egg:
Kiwi eggs and chicks are removed from the wild and hatched and/or raised in captivity until big enough to fend for themselves – usually when they weigh around 1000-1200g.
They are then returned to the wild. An Operation Nest Egg bird has a 65 per cent chance of surviving to adulthood compared to just 5 per cent for wild-hatched and raised chicks in areas which have no predator controls in place.
About Kiwis for Kiwi:
Kiwis for kiwi is the country's national charity dedicated to protecting kiwi.
Working in partnership with the Department of Conservation they raise and distribute funds to kiwi conservation projects across New Zealand with a vision is to take kiwi from endangered to everywhere.
Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre head kiwi ranger Jess Flamy with Koha Te Aroha. Photo / Tara Swan