Whakatāne Kiwi Project goals
By 2015, the Whakatāne Kiwi Project aims to have:
- At least 200 kiwi that have originated from or are managed under the Whakatāne Kiwi Project.
- At least 120 kiwi, including 20 breeding pairs, in the core area.
- Increased the number of kiwi in the privately-owned land areas and at least four sub-populations in the expansion area.
- More than 75 percent of the project’s budget coming from investments, external funders, sponsors and donations through the Whakatāne Kiwi Trust.
- The project is to become more community based, with community representatives taking on leadership roles. This is also a responsibility of the Whakatāne Kiwi Trust.
Achieving the goals
There are a few important factors that ensure the Whakatāne Kiwi Project goals are achieved.
Predator control is the key to achieving the Whakatāne Kiwi Trust vision that kiwi thrive and prosper in the Whakatāne district. Kiwi are vulnerable to predators such as stoats, ferrets, weasels, rats, possums and cats. Kiwi are also at risk of being hit by vehicles as they cross the road, and fall prey to traps set on the ground.
Kiwi chicks are vulnerable to stoats because they are very small as young birds, and distinctly (and deliciously) smelly. It is believed that almost all wild chicks are killed by stoats before they reach the ‘stoat safe weight’ of 1000 grams.
The Whakatāne Kiwi Project focuses on using traps and poison to control predators in and around the Ōhope Scenic Reserve. Volunteers maintain 440 stoat traps throughout the year, and bait stations are used to control rats and possums during nesting season.
In the early days of the Project, kiwi eggs were removed from the nests and carefully transferred to Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua. Here they were taken care of 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’ stoat safe weight of 1000 grams – big enough to protect itself against stoats.
In 2011, it was decided that kiwi numbers in the Ōhope Scenic Reserve were at a point where the project could trial leaving chicks to hatch ‘in-situ’, which means kiwi eggs are incubated and hatched in their natural environment.
The chicks are still carefully monitored, with Whakatāne Kiwi Trust volunteers monitoring the chick’s transmitter signals every two days to ensure they are still alive. The monitoring process is affectionately termed ‘chick pinging’: kiwi chicks are fitted with a transmitter-band around their leg, which has a unique radio signal that can be tracked by a receiving device. A team of dedicated ‘chick pingers’ walk through the reserves to carry out the monitoring, and every three to four weeks the chick will have a health check and transmitter-band change until it has reached the ‘stoat safe’ 1000gm mark.