Two Napier visitor centre staff recently spent part of their weekend in the company of a very special bird.
Jane Libby, i-Site manager, and Marion Joe, information and travel consultant, accompanied Environment, Conservation and Outdoor Education Trust (ECOED) volunteers and the trust's general manager Kahori Nakagawa on a scheduled kiwi release at Makahu Saddle in the Kaweka Forest Park.
The invitation to be part of the release of two kiwi chicks came about because the i-Site collected donations to go towards ECOED's Save Our Kiwi Hawke's Bay programme during its annual i-SPY Fun Challenge in June — $900 in total. The i-Site and Par2 MiniGolf now have collection boxes for the charity permanently installed at their receptions.
ECOED runs a kiwi creche at Opouahi Scenic Reserve, near Tutira, for kiwi chicks. The chicks are then released into the wild once they reach between 900g and 1kg in weight. This is thought to be the minimum size at which kiwi have a fighting chance of fending off predators, such as stoats.
In recognition of the special partnership between the i-Site and ECOED, Libby and Joe were asked to name one of the chicks. They chose Mohiohio, Maori for information.
Helping to raise awareness of this charity and its important environmental work is rewarding, says Libby.
"Without volunteers ECOED would be unable to do as much as they do now. It's great to support an organisation like this, and from the donations we received on their behalf at the i-SPY Fun Challenge, it's clear other locals do too."
Any donations are most appreciated, says Kahori, with ECOED relying on funding from Pan Pac, the Kiwis for Kiwi Trust and Department of Conservation.
The money raised from the i-SPY Fun Challenge will go towards protecting and monitoring the wild kiwi population in the Kaweka Forest Park.
More than 200 kiwi have been released into the park in the past 16 years.
"We have a small but dedicated team of volunteers, many of whom are over 60 years old, who donate thousands of hours of their time each year. They monitor more than 35 kiwi over 15,000ha of the Kaweka Forest Park, recover 20 to 30 chicks during nesting season, and transfer them to the predator-free Kiwi creche."
ECOED was set up in 2002 to promote outdoor education and kiwi conservation in the region.
At the time, only about 300 kiwi were thought to be left in the Kaweka and would die out by 2050 due to predation by stoats, ferrets, feral cats, possums and dogs.
Only 5 per cent of wild kiwi chicks survive their first year.
¦For more information, visit ecoed.org.nz