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Meet Bridget Palmer, Department of Conservation Partnership Ranger

Bridget Palmer is a well-known figure in Whakatāne, and the kiwi ‘industry’ nationwide.  In 2009, Bridget was offered a secondment from her Department of Conservation (DOC) role in Rotorua to manage the Whakatāne Kiwi Project.  She readily accepted - who wouldn’t want to live in the sunshine capital of New Zealand?

So Bridget packed her bags and got stuck into the busy job of overseeing all the operations of the Whakatāne Kiwi Project.  This included managing the kiwi population in the area through predator control and Operation Nest Egg™.  Building and maintaining relationships with land owners and forestry managers in or near kiwi habitat was important too.  Bridget spent a lot of time ‘hands on’ in the field, finding kiwi and eggs with the help of her faithful dog Tai. 

Three years later, Bridget’s role changed within DOC and her time as the Whakatāne Kiwi Project manager finished.  She now focuses on training volunteers and tangata whenua to continue the work established in the Whakatāne area.  Bridget dedicates many volunteer hours to the Project, which has become very close to her heart.

We caught up with Bridget to ask her a few questions.

What’s the best bit about being involved with the Whakatāne Kiwi Project?

The Project reached a huge milestone when we changed from using Operation Nest Egg™ to in-situ management.  The most exciting part for me was a 96% success rate in the first year of wild hatching: the average is usually 5 percent so I was thrilled!

I also really enjoyed seeing the Kiwi Tracker come to fruition.  Sharing my knowledge and experience with the community, especially children, is always a highlight.

What’s your least favourite moment?

It’s devastating when a chick almost reaches the ‘magic’ 1000g mark, only to die.  I hate having to share the news with volunteers, sponsors and iwi who have invested so much into these wee birds.

Likewise, when adult kiwi die from unnatural causes such as being caught in possum traps or being killed by a dog it’s heart-wrenching.  I’ve had to euthanize three in the last year and it is so unnecessary.

Tell us about your hobbies

To be honest, the Whakatāne Kiwi Project has become a bit of a lifestyle for me.  When I do have some spare time I spend it training my kiwi dogs Tai and Aria, and if I find myself at a loose end a spot of mountain biking, running, crafts and gardening all rate pretty highly!

What is your future with the Whakatāne Kiwi Project?

I’m currently in a partnerships position with DOC, so I’ll continue to work with Whakatāne Kiwi Project volunteers to get them up to speed.  I think I’ll always be involved in some capacity – I’m passionate about the Project and can’t imagine not being part of it.