New Zealand's largest kiwi hatchery, based in Rotorua, is celebrating a record 145 chicks being released back into forests as the hatching season wraps up.
The last chick of the 2018/19 season hatched on April 13 at the National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa, which is hosted at Rainbow Springs Nature Park in Rotorua.
Kiwi husbandry manager Emma Bean said it was a record number of chicks hatched.
"To have 145 kiwi chicks heading out into the forests around the North Island is fantastic for our conservation journey."
Last year the hatchery released 133 kiwi chicks.
This season's number includes kiwi that were taken to the hatchery as eggs, as well as chicks that had hatched in the wild.
The hatchery's success rate this season was a higher-than-average rate of 95.8 per cent.
"In October 2018, which is Save Kiwi Month, we hatched our 1800th chick. We then reached another milestone – 1900 kiwi chicks – and we're ending this hatching season with 1923 kiwi chicks," Bean said.
October last year was also when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited the hatchery to meet and name two kiwi chicks, Koha and Tihei, which have since been released to Motutapu Island in Hauraki Gulf and Purangi in East Taranaki.
Also this season, the hatchery received a battery and solar power package from Mercury, to provide reliable back-up power for its incubators.
"We can have more than 40 eggs at the hatchery at one time, so having battery power as a back-up is a fantastic addition to the work that we are doing to save kiwi. If the incubators turn off, the eggs could cool down and die," Bean said.
The record-breaking year was possible in part to a new brooder room supplied by Kiwis for Kiwi, enabling the hatchery to care for more kiwi chicks.
Kiwis for Kiwi executive director Michelle Impey said the Operation Nest Egg programme was being ramped up in the North Island.
"Kiwi eggs and chicks collected from the wild [will be] released to kōhanga kiwi sites to create permanent breeding populations that in the near future will supply offspring for release to predator control areas.
"This is part of a national strategy to reverse the decline of kiwi and start growing the kiwi population. The National Kiwi Hatchery, with its skilled staff and now additional capacity, will be a key partner in helping realise this goal," she said.
Department of Conservation kiwi recovery group leader Jess Scrimgeour said the results were a testament to the skill and dedication of the kiwi team.
"The National Kiwi Hatchery keeps setting the bar higher each year, both with hatch success rate and the number of kiwi being released back in to the wild," she said.
Previously known as Kiwi Encounter, this season the hatchery also celebrated the launch of its new name and look.