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Whakatāne – the 'Kiwi Capital of the World'

Where do they live?

Kiwi under the watch of the Whakatāne Kiwi Project live in local reserves including Moutohorā (Whale Island), Ōhope Scenic Reserve, Kohi Point Scenic Reserve, Mokorua Bush Scenic Reserve and Waiotane Scenic Reserve.  There are also kiwi under management on private land in Waiotahi, Wainui and Omataroa.   Several forestry blocks are home to kiwi in Omataroa, Kiwinui, Awakeri, Ōhiwa, Taneatua, Kererutahi and Waiotahi.

Download the Whakatāne Kiwi Project area map (PDF, 165 KB).

Where did they come from?

In 1999, a Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger found a male kiwi in his burrow with a chick and an egg in the Ōhope Scenic Reserve.  Since then, drastic action has been taken to rescue kiwi in the Whakatāne area. 

Initially, eggs were taken by the Whakatāne Kiwi Project team to Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua where they were looked after by kiwi specialists using a process called Operation Nest Egg™.  At Kiwi Encounter eggs are artificially incubated and once the chick hatches it is reared in captivity until it reaches the ‘magic’ weight of 1000 grams – big enough to protect itself against stoats, the main predator of kiwi chicks.  Operation Nest Egg™ was used until 2011; since then chicks are hatched ‘in-situ’, meaning they are left to hatch in their natural habitat. The success of the Whakatāne Kiwi Project has led to Whakatāne being officially trademarked as the ‘Kiwi Capital of the World™’.

How many are there?

From only a few kiwi living in the Ōhope Scenic Reserve in 1999, there are now over 300.  This number is expected to increase with ongoing predator control and in-situ management of the birds.

Threats to kiwi

Kiwi are vulnerable to predators such as stoats, ferrets, weasels, rats, possums, cats and dogs.  Kiwi are also at risk of being hit by vehicles as they cross the road and fall prey to possum traps set on the ground.

In most unmanaged areas, almost all kiwi chicks are killed within the first six months of hatching and most of those are killed by stoats.  The feisty nature of an adult kiwi, combined with its size, strong legs and sharp claws mean it is more likely to fend off most mustelids (stoats and weasels) but wouldn’t survive a dog attack.  Kiwi smell irresistible to dogs, and even a well-trained dog can kill kiwi. Kiwi aversion training is one of the ways we can help kiwi have a chance against dogs. Both feral and domestic cats are also a big threat. 

The Whakatāne Kiwi Project focuses on using traps and poison to control predators in and around the core project area (Mokorua Scenic Reserve and Kohi Point Scenic Reserve).  440 stoat traps are maintained by volunteers throughout the year, and bait stations are used to control rodents and possums during nesting season.  

Read more about pest control.