Saving our kiwi
A stocktake of kiwi conservation in New Zealand:
progress with kiwi, who's doing the work, and what
the future holds for our national icon
Front cover: Rowi chick, Motuara
Island, Marlborough Sounds,
Operation Nest Egg.
Photo: Ian Gill
Inside front cover and back cover:
North Island brown kiwi feathers.
Photo: Rogan Colbourne
F O R E WO R D F RO M T H E M I N I S T E R O F C O N S E RVAT I O N
My ﬁrst sight of a kiwi was as a small boy peering through glass in the kiwi house at
Auckland Zoo. They were larger than I ﬁrst thought, with a furry plumage, poking
their long beaks into the leaf litter for grubs, oblivious to me staring through the glass.
What they lacked in wings they made up for with powerful legs and feet.
But, strong though they look, the kiwi is in trouble. They are attacked by roaming
dogs, ferrets and feral cats; they get run over by cars; and the juveniles are vulnerable
to stoats. Where they are not managed for conservation, their numbers are in decline.
Once there were millions of kiwi, now there are around 78,000, most of them in
remote areas of New Zealand.
Minister of Conservation
Kiwi live only in our country; there is nothing like them elsewhere in the world.Their
closest relatives – the ostrich of southern Africa, the Australian emu and cassowary, the
South American rhea – are more like the extinct moa than kiwi. It is the distinctiveness
of the kiwi, its unusual shape, that has made a national icon of this instantly recognisable
bird. All the more reason to protect the kiwi from extinction.
Fortunately for the kiwi, conservation is a growth industry in New Zealand. The
Department of Conservation’s multi-million dollar
kiwi speciﬁc schemes are matched by more than 60
community-led projects, aimed mainly at controlling
stoats and raising kiwi in captivity for later release into
the wild. Bank of New Zealand Save The Kiwi Trust has
played a huge role in funding kiwi conservation, in
particular, the captive hatching and rearing programme
known as Operation Nest Egg.
This brochure celebrates the good work being done
around the country, to inspire conﬁdence in the future
for the kiwi, as well as describe the threats that kiwi
in the wild face. There is no room to be complacent
and all of us can play a part in improving the long-term
Great spotted kiwi/roroa, National In Northland, for instance, the effectiveness of stoat control is being undone by
Wildlife Centre, Pukaha Mt Bruce.
Photo: Rod Morris
roaming dogs, a very difﬁcult problem to ﬁx and dog owners need to become part of
the solution. In some parts of New Zealand, pig hunters have put their dogs through
avian aversion schemes and this example of a positive attitude is to be encouraged.
With a shared commitment to protecting the kiwi, more of us may have the privilege
of having our national bird living in or near our neighbourhoods. Only in New Zealand
do we have this possibility; let’s make it a reality.
MINISTER OF CONSERVATION
The kiwi has long been part of our national identity; it is a taonga (treasure) to Maori;
and we have a strong and enduring attachment to this long-beaked relative of the
moa. But it would be wrong to think that this ﬂightless bird will continue to survive
on emotional support alone.
In areas outside conservation management, kiwi numbers are either in decline, by as
much as 4 per cent a year in the North Island, or just holding their ground, as is the
case in parts of the northern South Island and on Rakiura/Stewart Island.
Stoats, roaming dogs, feral cats, ferrets, ground-set traps, and being hit by vehicles are
the key threats. To deal with these, Department of Conservation scientists have been
developing and testing methods of conserving kiwi, with extra government funding
for research since 2000.
A complex picture of kiwi biology and ecology is emerging. For instance, trapping
stoats may lead to more rats that in turn compete for food with kiwi. Conservation
methods that work well in the North Island may not in the South. Controlling pests
only in years when more beneﬁts are likely, rather than annually, would lead to slower
increases in kiwi populations but free up resources to protect kiwi at new sites.
To complicate the picture further, genetic science in the last few years has revealed
Mason’s Bay, Rakiura/Stewart
11 varieties of kiwi, six more than previously thought. The life cycles and behaviour
Photo: Rogan Colbourne of kiwi differ greatly from one end of New Zealand to the other. Both issues affect the
design of kiwi conservation programmes.
Kiwi by numbers: 2006 estimates
North Island brown kiwi (4 varieties) 25,000
Little spotted kiwi 1,425
Great spotted kiwi (roroa) 17,000
Okarito brown kiwi (rowi) 250
Haast tokoeka 300
Southern tokoeka (3 varieties): 34,500
Stewart Island 20,000
Southern Fiordland 4,500
Northern Fiordland 10,000
Notes: The accuracy of kiwi population estimates ranges from very high for little
spotted kiwi to plus or minus 20% in the case of North Island brown kiwi, great
spotted kiwi and southern tokoeka. Estimates for this last group have been revised
upwards in the last year.
The southern tokoeka (Ngai Tahu: weka with a walking stick) was previously
known as South Island brown kiwi and Stewart Island brown kiwi.
Tracking tokoeka, with Olly (left)
and Lucy, Rakiura/Stewart Island.
Photo: Hugh Robertson
Two of the new varieties of kiwi, on the West Coast at Okarito and in the Haast Range,
have been discovered just in time to save them from extinction; they number 250 and
300 individuals respectively.
No one size ﬁts all when it comes to managing kiwi, and DOC cannot do the work
on kiwi conservation alone. There are now more than 60 community-led projects
around the country, most of them in the North Island, where many kiwi still survive
on private land.
Bank of New Zealand Save The Kiwi Trust has made a big contribution by sponsoring
kiwi conservation, offering an opportunity for all New Zealanders to get involved.
Because scientists now know much more about kiwi and how to protect them, DOC
is able to lend more of a hand to community-led projects, which are then more likely
to be effective.
The new deal for kiwi started in 2000 with the Government’s establishment of the
DOC kiwi sanctuaries – three in the North Island, two in the South. This brochure
summarises the results and knowledge gained in the last six years; draft goals to 2016
for kiwi conservation; examples of the work communities are doing; and community
perspectives on kiwi conservation.
This brochure has been produced to inspireNew Zealanders to take more interest in
our national bird. It would help the cause if all of us took more care with our dogs
and cats, and on the roads, and to the extent that each of us are able, got involved in
kiwi care projects.
The kiwi sanctuaries
In 2000 the Department of Conservation set up ﬁve “kiwi sanctuaries”, sites for
developing better methods of protecting kiwi in the wild. It was recognised that stoats
are a key threat and that controlling them is a priority.
The kiwi sanctuaries are in Northland (near Whangarei), the Coromandel (Moehau),
Tongariro Forest, and Okarito and Haast on the West Coast of the South Island. The
Government’s Biodiversity Strategy funding package allocated $10 million over ﬁve
years to the project, funding that has since been baselined into DOC’s budget.
N O RT H I S L A N D
In the Northland (10,000 ha) and Coromandel (12,000 ha) sanctuaries, stoat trapping
has worked very well. By 2005 up to 70 per cent of chicks were surviving to six
months old, compared to 11 per cent at unmanaged sites. At this age, they weigh 1kg
and are able to defend themselves against stoats.Adult populations (c. 300 at each site
in 2000) have been increasing by up to 13 per cent a year. Numbers are expected to
reach 1000 at each site within the next decade.
The next step has been to reduce the frequency of trap checks to 12–15 times a year
Haast Kiwi Sanctuary.
from once a fortnight at both sanctuaries to free up resources to manage an extra 6000
Photo: Rogan Colbourne
ha of kiwi habitat. While chick survival at the sanctuaries has dropped to 50–60 per
cent, populations are still growing rapidly enough to assure good rates of recovery.
A different approach to stoat control was trialled in Tongariro Forest, 15,000 ha in
the upper Whanganui catchment north of Mt Ruapehu, where there were around
200 birds. An increase in chick survival rates from 12 per cent a year to 36 per cent
following a 1080 poison possum control operation in 2000 suggests that good levels
Camp kitchen, Haast Kiwi
of secondary poisoning of stoats occurred.To further increase the chick survival rate,
Sanctuary. Operation Nest Egg, a captive rearing programme, has been used.
Photo: Rogan Colbourne
Radio tracking Haast tokoeka.
Photo: Ian Gill
The two sanctuaries on the West Coast – for the Okarito brown kiwi (rowi) and the
Haast tokoeka – have had less success with stoat trapping because of a peculiarity of
South Island forest ecology.
In some years beech and rimu produce abnormally high levels of seeds or fruit, which
cause rodent populations to explode, which in turn lead to
stoat plagues. When rodent numbers crash on running out of
food, the stoats get hungry. No amount of trapping can keep
them away from young kiwi, DOC scientists have discovered.
At 10,000 ha, the Okarito sanctuary covers the entire range
of this species, numbering around 250 individuals. Because of
repeated stoat plagues, few or no rowi chicks have survived in
the wild in three of the last ﬁve years of monitoring. Operation
Nest Egg has been used to save some chicks from otherwise
certain death. Similar issues apply to the Haast sanctuary
(12,000 ha), except that stoat predation is less intense. Chicks
have been successfully raised in the wild in four of the last ﬁve
years at this site.
Photo: Ian Gill
OT H E R D O C P RO J E C T S
Kiwi are among a range of threatened native species managed at DOC “mainland island
projects”, sites where several species of pest are controlled simultaneously.
Examples of such projects are Trounson Kauri Park in Northland, northern Te Urewera,
Boundary Stream/Maungaharuru in Hawke’s Bay, the southern slopes of Mt Ruapehu
(Rangataua forest), Pukaha/Mt Bruce, Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park, and in
Fiordland near the Milford Track and in the Murchison mountains.
DOC manages a number of predator-free offshore island sanctuaries to protect a range
of native species, including little spotted kiwi and North Island brown kiwi.
The kiwi sanctuaries and other projects have focused on priority areas for kiwi
conservation, in the knowledge that kiwi numbers on Stewart Island, in much of
Fiordland, Northwest Nelson and parts of inland Canterbury are relatively stable
because of their remoteness from human habitation and the fact that very wet, cold
sites tend to have fewer pests.
Returning Haast tokoeka to the
wild, Operation Nest Egg.
Photo: Ian Gill
Running in parallel to the kiwi sanctuaries is work involving communities in kiwi care.
The emphasis has been on information sharing and support by DOC staff, funding
support from Bank of New Zealand Save The Kiwi Trust, and the Government’s
Biodiversity Advice and Condition Fund grants.
C O M M U N I T Y P RO J E C T S
More than 60 community-based kiwi initiatives have developed, the majority in the
last ﬁve years, many involving iwi.They are run mainly as managed sites in the wild, as
well as fenced predator-proof kiwi chick creche sites and predator-free island creche
sites. In total, community-led protection covers more than 50,000 ha of kiwi habitat,
close to the 70,000 ha of kiwi habitat managed by DOC.
Northland and the Coromandel are the focus for community kiwi care groups, with
more than 30 in Northland alone. Community support for kiwi management has now
taken root in Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and in East Coast/Hawke’s Bay.
There are relatively few community-based initiatives in the South Island (a notable
example is a project at Arthur’s Pass), mainly because of the remoteness of kiwi
populations. Fortunately, the needs of kiwi are generally less urgent in much of the
Haast tokoeka chick, South Island, with the exception of the rowi and the Haast tokoeka.
Photo: Willowbank Wildlife
Photo: Chrissy Wickes
BA N K O F N E W Z E A L A N D S AV E T H E
K I W I T RU S T
A sponsorship agreement between DOC and Bank
of New Zealand provides around 15 per cent of
total funding spent on kiwi conservation, and other
resources,with the annual contribution now exceeding
$600,000 a year and continuing to grow.
The Trust has helped ensure sound kiwi management
practice, with its board approving funding allocations.
Checking a Haast tokoeka
The Trust has also challenged DOC in its formulation of
egg for fertility. kiwi recovery goals to help motivate New Zealanders
Photo: Ian Gill to take action to save our national bird.
Bank of New Zealand Save The Kiwi’s
Operation Nest Egg
Under Operation Nest Egg, kiwi eggs or chicks are
taken from the wild, hatched and raised in captivity for
around six months until the juveniles reach 1kg, the
weight at which they are able to defend themselves
from stoats, and when they can be returned to the wild.
Several zoos and wildlife parks are currently part of the
programme. More than 120 kiwi chicks are raised each
year, funded by Bank of New Zealand Save The Kiwi
Trust and the captive rearing institutions.
Rowi egg incubation, Willowbank, Christchurch.
Photo: Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
I N T E RV I E W W I T H P E T E R T H O D E Y, BA N K O F N E W
Z E A L A N D S AV E T H E K I W I T RU S T
How did the Bank get involved in kiwi conservation?
Bank of New Zealand became interested in the plight of the kiwi about 15 years ago.
At the time there was surprisingly little information available about kiwi and although
we knew it was in trouble, we didn’t know how many there were, where they lived or
what threatened their survival. The Bank simply could not stand back and allow our
national icon to become extinct.
We decided that becoming actively involved in supporting kiwi conservation efforts
was the best way for us to help. So far, we’ve contributed about $7 million, money that
has come from the Bank through sponsorship fees and from customer donations. We
have a long way to go, but we believe our involvement with the protection of the kiwi
will prove to be historically signiﬁcant.
Peter Thodey, managing director What have you required from your side?
Bank of New Zealand
When we developed Bank of New Zealand Save The Kiwi Trust, we wanted to create
something that would add relevance to kiwi conservation. Obviously, that was
important from the point of view of the bird, but we also wanted to establish an
organisation that had a very professional focus and would integrate the Bank with
DOC and the community. I believe we’ve developed a good template for environmental
In an effort to develop the credibility of the Trust’s leadership, we have been very
fortunate to have found two leading experts in the scientiﬁc ﬁeld who have volunteered
their time as independent trustees. They review the work DOC is doing and provide
objective opinions. That has helped create a balance between corporate sponsorship
and conservation. It also showed the community and conservation groups that the
Trust isn’t DOC and the Bank sitting around a boardroom table divvying up money;
decisions are made by experts who are involved with the Trust and who have a passion
for kiwi. It’s a very hands-on – and hearts-on – trust.
And that goes for Bank staff, too. I believe that for a corporate sponsorship to work,
it has to have the support of staff. Not only do Bank staff promote products that raise
money for the Trust like kiwi Eftpos cards and cheques, but staff are also encouraged
to become involved in conservation work. For instance, staff are involved in some
restoration projects by planting trees and shrubs. Sometimes, staff go out when kiwi
chicks are released back to the wild. People can more easily support the kiwi products
when they have experienced for themselves what the Trust accomplishes.
Haast tokoeka return.
Operation Nest Egg.
Photo: Ian Gill
Radio tracking rowi at Okarito.
Photo: Ian Gill
How have you done your promotion of kiwi?
In 2005, the Bank commissioned research to ﬁnd out what New Zealanders think about
kiwi. We found that the average New Zealander felt a connection with kiwi and sees
Top: Haast tokoeka transfer to the kiwi as a symbol of inclusion – it is the one thing in New Zealand that transcends
Burwood reserve,Te Anau. race, gender, religion, age and ethnicity. However, while 87 per cent surveyed felt
Photo: Ian Gill
that saving the kiwi should be a national priority, the research showed that people
Rowi transfer from Willowbank,
Christchurch to Motuara Island. weren’t aware of the situation of kiwi or that a lot of work needs to be done to save
Photo: Ian Gill our national icon.
The message the Bank used in its campaign – that kiwi could disappear
from a region near you in 15 years – was not only accurate, but created
a sense of urgency.
But we also needed to convey hope and opportunity. New Zealanders
need to know that they can do something to help the kiwi and that
every New Zealander can make a contribution and difference.
Goals of the Trust’s kiwi programme?
We want to increase the number of kiwi in New Zealand, increase the
number of places where kiwi live, and maintain their genetic diversity.
Those goals are based on what the kiwi scientists have told us and affect
the kinds of projects that we are keen to support.
The funding has typically been divided with 40 per cent going to DOC
for research, 40 per cent to community projects and 20 per cent being
used for advocacy work.The level of community involvement is growing
– there are now 60 community groups (there were barely any when we
started) and these groups all need support. Consequently, every year we
need to raise more money.
The Trust’s contribution to kiwi conservation is continuing to grow to
meet the expanding needs of kiwi conservation. We’ve accomplished
a lot so far, but we need New Zealanders’ help to make it happen. It is,
after all, about “Kiwis saving kiwi”.
Draft goals for kiwi conservation
The Department of Conservation’s kiwi recovery team is working with tangata
whenua, community groups, and other interested groups and individuals on planning
conservation work to 2016.The over-arching goal is for at least 300 pairs each of rowi
and Haast tokoeka, and 500 pairs each of the other types of kiwi, in predator-safe
conditions, and stable or growing in numbers.
C O M M U N I T Y R E L AT I O N S
• Tangata whenua: Iwi are involved from the ground up in kiwi research and
management, an expectation under the Treaty of Waitangi.
• Communities: New Zealanders continue to become actively involved in kiwi
conservation, especially on private land. As the community role continues to grow,
more support will be needed, e.g. via continued information sharing.
• Advocacy: Maintain and where possible boost local support for kiwi conservation,
raise public awareness of the need to reduce the threats dogs and cats pose to kiwi,
and raise the proﬁle of kiwi work.
• Bank of New Zealand Save The Kiwi Trust:A partner in kiwi conservation nationally,
crucial for resourcing, supporting DOC research and community work, and
• Operation Nest Egg: Continue working closely with captive management
• Local government: Step up involvement, via legislation, regulations and policies, e.g.
on dog control. Promote kiwi conservation as part of conservation advocacy.
Back to the wild for a young
Photo: Ian Gill
From left: Writing rowi into
the records. M A NAG E M E N T
Photo: Ian Gill
Chick weighing, Operation • North Island: Improve stoat control technology and cost-effectiveness to increase
Nest Egg. the area of kiwi habitat under control. Where roaming dogs are a problem, urgent
Photo: Rogan Colbourne
action is needed, including advocacy and kiwi avoidance training. Maintain support
to community groups.
• South Island: The rowi and Haast tokoeka most need conservation management,
because stoat control has been less effective than in the North, and egg laying rates
are lower. Individual kiwi could be placed into areas of greater food availability, e.g.
predator-free islands, to see if egg laying rates increase. Rat and possum control
may lead to more insect availability, beneﬁting kiwi. Encourage community group
participation in kiwi management.
• Off-site management: Establish back-up populations at predator-secure sites on
islands and intensively-managed mainland sites.
• Maintain genetic diversity: Monitor the risk of inbreeding arising from Operation
Nest Egg, e.g. eggs from some pairs can be taken more easily than others.
• Captive breeding: Reduce female deaths from egg peritonitis, and male deaths
during re-pairing. Improve the adaptability of chicks to artiﬁcial diets, and improve
chick survival on transfer from brooders to outside pens.
• Genetics and taxonomy: Research on physical characteristics, behaviour, and
distribution to better identify priority populations for management. Improve the
formal classiﬁcations of the different types of kiwi.
• Monitoring: Continue kiwi listening and reporting schemes. Five-yearly stocktakes of
banded populations of kiwi at six sites around the country to measure progress.
• New areas of research: Minimum areas for managing kiwi; effects of 1080 on pests at
Tongariro; kiwi diseases; sustainability of community groups; monitoring techniques
for kiwi and small mammal pests; effects of kiwi dispersal behaviour.
Active by night, a prodder of forest ﬂoor for insects, the kiwi is to New Zealand as the
hedgehog is to Europe, with one crucial difference.The hedgehog enjoys a high-speed
lifestyle, while the kiwi lives much longer, eats much less, and reproduces much more
Alone among birds in having a nose at the end of its beak, and notable for laying eggs
up to one-ﬁfth of their body weight, the kiwi is unlike any other bird on Earth.
In some varieties, the egg is incubated for 80 days by the male alone, during which
time he loses up to 20 per cent of his body weight. The chick hatches fully feathered
and within ﬁve days is ready to get on with life. While still juvenile, it strikes off on its
own, often walking great distances to ﬁnd a territory.
Until it reaches 1kg at about six months old, the young kiwi is at the mercy of any
hungry stoat or cat. From about that time, the kiwi can defend itself against stoats but
not roaming dogs or ferrets.
All going well, kiwi reach sexual maturity at 2–4 years of age, and then the courtship
game begins. On a spring night after dark, the calls of male kiwi and the females’
answering calls may be heard in kiwi areas.A pair of kiwi may produce up to 100 eggs
in a lifetime of 50 years or more.
North Island brown kiwi, 4 varieties: estimated pop. 25,000
For many New Zealanders, this is the kiwi we think of. It’s the one that lives closest to
human habitation, familiar to many communities in Northland, Bay of Plenty, East Coast/
Hawke’s Bay and parts of Taranaki, and is the main species on display in captivity.
The North Island brown is a faster breeder than other kiwi, producing up to two eggs
a clutch and 1–2 clutches a year, as opposed to the more usual one egg every year in
South Island varieties. On the down side, stoats are a permanent issue in North Island
forests. Where not managed, kiwi numbers are halving every 15 years.
In the kiwi sanctuaries, by contrast, stoat control has been so effective that many more
chicks survive than are needed to allow populations to recover. But this success is
being undermined (in parts of Northland in particular) by roaming dogs.The solution
is easy in principle – a change in attitude among dog owners – and is a goal for DOC
community relations work in affected areas.
North Island brown kiwi, Rotorua.
Photo: Rod Morris
Little spotted kiwi.
Photo: Rogan Colbourne
Little spotted kiwi, estimated pop. 1,425
The smallest and once the commonest kiwi is vulnerable to stoats at all stages of its
life cycle. The little spotted is now restricted to several predator-free offshore islands
and the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. While their numbers are expanding offshore, the
potential for mainland restoration is limited, currently, to fenced-off areas like Karori
Wildlife Sanctuary. They used to live in parts of the North Island, the West Coast of the
Great spotted kiwi, Hurunui. South Island and Fiordland.
Photo: Rogan Colbourne
Great spotted kiwi (roroa), estimated pop. 17,000
The giant among kiwi (whence the Ngai Tahu name, roroa), this
turkey-sized bird lives in mountainous areas of the northern South
Island. Its strongholds are in Kahurangi National Park, the Paparoa
Range, and the beech forests of inland Canterbury. Trampers on
the Heaphy Track may have heard the roroa’s trilling call after
nightfall, or the sound of them rustling through the bush.
Roroa have been released into Rotoiti, in Nelson Lakes National
Park, as part of DOC extending its range. Because they live in
remote areas, the only threat is stoats which live at lower densities
in high altitude and high rainfall terrain. In much of Northwest
Nelson, numbers of roroa appear to be stable.
Okarito brown kiwi (rowi), estimated pop. 250
The rowi is one of two critically-endangered varieties, and is
restricted to 10,000 ha of lowland podocarp forest at Okarito in
Westland.The complete area is a DOC kiwi sanctuary.Despite a huge
trapping effort, results have been poor, and the key conservation
method to build up the population will be Operation Nest Egg
– the taking of eggs from the wild and hatching and rearing them
in captivity until the chicks reach 1kg when they can be returned
to the wild.
The rowi’s lifespan of up to 100 years allows it to cope with
much lower rates of chick survival than are needed in the North
Island. But it faces serious conservation challenges: motor vehicle
trafﬁc on the side-road to Okarito township, a forest ecology that
Rowi, Motuara Island. encourages frequent stoat plagues, and the fact that young rowi tend to return to the
Photo: Ian Gill same burrow for years, increasing the risk of being attacked by stoats.
Haast tokoeka, estimated pop. 300
Scattered through 15,000 ha of cold, wet, rugged, mountainous terrain in
South Westland lives the second critically-endangered kiwi, the Haast tokoeka.
Two-thirds of this area is covered by a kiwi sanctuary, and stoat trapping is the
main population recovery tool.
Of all areas under kiwi management, this is the most difﬁcult to work in, for the
inhospitable climate and geography, and the shyness of the birds. Population
recovery appears to be occurring at a slightly faster rate than for rowi.
Southern tokoeka, 3 varieties, estimated pop. 34,500
Located in Fiordland and Stewart Island, the southern tokoeka (Ngai Tahu,
weka with a walking stick) is the most numerous species of kiwi. This is no
accident – this species is exposed to relatively few threats apart from stoats.
Unusual among kiwi for being active during the daytime, the Stewart Island
variety numbers around 20,000 birds.Visitors to Stewart Island may have been
lucky enough to see them chasing sandhoppers on the beaches. Numbers are
thought to be relatively stable because there are no stoats or ferrets and few
dogs on the island, although there are feral cats.
Haast tokoeka showing
distinctive reddish plumage.
The Fiordland contingent is divided into northern (10,000) and southern (4,500)
Photo: Rogan Colbourne groups, which are either stable or in gradual decline. Conservation projects for
tokoeka involve Operation Ark sites, e.g., near the Milford Track, where the focus of
protection is mohua (yellowhead) and blue duck (whio) via simultaneous control
of stoats, rats and possums; as well as a large-scale stoat control experiment in the
Murchison Mountains, and projects removing stoats from islands in Fiordland.
Stewart Island tokoeka chasing
Photo: Tui De Roy
Map prepared by Bank of New Zealand Save The Kiwi Trust
Threats to kiwi
Like much of New Zealand’s wildlife, the kiwi evolved in isolation from the rest of the
world for 65 million years until the ﬁrst humans arrived 1000 years ago.
Long-lived and slow breeding, the kiwi and many other native species are no match for
introduced mammals, armed with speed, a keen sense of smell enabling them to hunt
at night, fast metabolisms and high rates of reproduction.
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris):
Whether it is a pig dog or a poodle, man’s best friend is rarely a kiwi’s. In parts of
Northland in particular, as well as in Te Urewera, Wanganui, the Coromandel and
Taranaki, roaming dogs are making huge dents in kiwi populations. The roamers may
be pig dogs, pets, working dogs in rural areas, or dogs that have gone feral from lack
of care and been forced to live off the land.
In the Northland Kiwi Sanctuary (managed for stoats), the average lifespan of kiwi is
only 13 years, compared with more than 50 years in the Tongariro Forest Sanctuary,
where there are few dogs. One roaming dog in Waitangi Forest killed an estimated 500
kiwi in six weeks.
Dog control would be easy in principle – keep them on a leash, tie them up, kennel
Tui, labrador-pointer cross. them or fence them in when at home. But this is not an option for pig hunters, and a
Photo: Herb Christophers challenge in rural communities.
A growing number of pig hunters are taking their dogs through DOC-run kiwi aversion
training schemes, but more study is needed to show how well the technique works.
Stoat (Mustela ermina):
Introduced in the 1880s to control rabbits, this relative of the weasel and ferret predates
juvenile kiwi up to 1kg. They can travel great distances, enter holes and burrows, and
are now widespread throughout most New Zealand forests.
From left: Stoat. Trapping is the main form of control, usually using hen’s eggs as bait, in a double trap
Photo: DOC archives laid every 150m–200m along lines 1km apart. Secondary poisoning can occur from
Ship rat in fantail nest.
eating rat and possum carcasses following 1080 poison operations. The baits need to
Photo: David Mudge
be checked every two weeks in summer and less frequently in winter.
Photo: Herb Christophers
Feral cat (Felis silvestris catus):
There may be as many as 2 million cats in New Zealand. Our household moggies
are the origin of the thousands of cats that have gone wild, either from dumping
unwanted cats or encouraging stray populations, and these cats kill kiwi chicks.
Control is extremely difﬁcult because cats can range over several kilometres every
night and trapping is the only method of capture at present.
Ferret (Mustela furo):
The largest relative of the stoat in New Zealand, the ferret or ﬁtch is a particular
problem in Northland, the Central North Island, Te Urewera, Taranaki and Wanganui.
Ferrets’ main prey are rats but if there are few rats, they may switch to attacking kiwi,
including the smaller adult males.
Ship rat, Norway rat (Rattus rattus, R norvegicus):
Rats do not attack kiwi directly but they appear to compete for insect food and fruit.
Photo: Grant Harper The issue has arisen in areas where there is good stoat control, because the absence
of stoats allows rat populations to increase. The effect needs further research, and an
opportunity will arise in Tongariro Forest in 2006/2007.
The Animal Health Board and DOC intend to air drop 1080 baits over the Tongariro
Forest Kiwi Sanctuary to kill possums as part of bovine Tb control. The secondary
effect on rats and stoats (from scavenging carcasses) and consequently kiwi chick
survivorship in the temporary absence of rats and stoats will be measured.
People (Homo sapiens sapiens):
Unwittingly or not, one of the biggest threats to kiwi are human beings, through
careless ownership of dogs, dumping unwanted domestic cats or ferrets, or bad luck
in hitting a kiwi while driving. Leaving stoats to one side, the kiwi that have it the best
in New Zealand are the ones that live far from humans.
Fortunately, more people are taking an interest in kiwi and are taking part directly in
kiwi care projects, or indirectly via donations to Bank of New Zealand Save The Kiwi
Trust. People are becoming increasingly part of the solution to kiwi decline.
Stoat trap, northern Te Urewera.
Photo: Herb Christophers
Community perspectives on kiwi
Hearing the call of kiwi – by Wendy Sporle
When I began kiwi advocacy in Northland 16 years ago we didn’t really know why kiwi
numbers were declining so quickly. Now we do, and New Zealanders have become
motivated to ensure we do not lose them altogether.
In areas where kiwi live, local people are taking up the call to action, with groups
forming to protect new areas of habitat, especially on private land. Communities are
also doing work in public conservation areas where the Department of Conservation
lacks the resources.
This momentum has been building over the last 6–7 years as more projects come on
Wendy Sporle, national mentor stream. Over time group members have seen kiwi numbers in their area increase.They
for advocacy, Bank of New
Zealand Save The Kiwi
are also a vital part of kiwi conservation nationally.
Kiwi numbers are declining most quickly in the North Island and that’s where
community kiwi care projects are concentrated, in Northland,Taranaki, the Coromandel
and Hawke’s Bay.
Ensuring the continued survival of community
kiwi care groups is a key issue, therefore, and there
is no single answer – each group is different in the
details, affecting how they work, their needs of
DOC and the management methods used.
Projects may be on private land, or on public land.
They may cover a few hundred hectares or many
thousands. The work may be hands-on captive
management via Operation Nest Egg, or weed and
animal pest control to protect habitat for kiwi (and
other native species).
Funding may be provided by many sources, others
from just one (Bank of New Zealand Save The Kiwi
Trust). Some groups do all the work themselves,
others hire contractors. A few are fully funded but
Farewell/poroporoaki from most rely on voluntary work and commitment.
Te Atiawa for rowi bound for
Okarito. Some are formal organisations, others are neighbours who have banded together to do
Photo: Ian Gill pest control over a larger area, with more beneﬁts for kiwi. The groups have varying
degrees of contact and support with local DOC ofﬁces, depending on the expertise
and availability of DOC staff.
The consistent thread is that communities are doing the work in a way that suits their
aspirations, skills and resources. It is their project, their geographic area and their
passion. They have ownership of how it is implemented and enormous pride in the
To meet the continuity challenge, a project has started on “future prooﬁng” community
projects. Some ideas include funding key project staff, and more training in the form
of a DVD.The development of strategic plans for each type of kiwi will help get more
information into communities on kiwi care challenges and solving them.
T U T U K A K A – N O RT H L A N D
The power of one (after another) – by Dave Hansford
You’d swear there was a fantail for every sandﬂy here beside Mike Camm’s dam – the
spears of late sun are full of them. Beyond the thickets of raupo, the glossy, glassy water
is rufﬂed only by the wake left by a ﬂotilla of pateke, the rare brown teal. There are
grey duck here too, and wait until the sun falls behind the rimu on the slopes beyond,
and you’ll hear the primal boom of that swamp phantom, the bittern.
“Not bad for a hay paddock, eh?” offers Mike. This gem of a wetland was bulldozed
during the 1970s, and ﬁlled in with money from a government farm development
fund. When Mike bought the place, the ﬁrst thing he did was put it back.
Putting things right has been a central philosophy ever since.“I bought this place eight
years ago. I was thinking of developing my own little national park here, as you do.”
He knew that kiwi still survived on this 120 ha forest remnant near the Northland
coastal settlement of Tutukaka, but he knew too, that within a few years they’d be gone
– lost to the teeth and claws of stoats.
So he set to work, clearing lines for 170 Fenn traps. “I wasn’t starry-eyed about what
I was getting into,” he recalls. “I knew that making a commitment to something like
this had to be total; there’s not much room for anything else. If I were keen on going
sailing every weekend, I wouldn’t have started this.”
For a few years, he worked the trap lines alone,“then, as I met my neighbours, I realised
there was this common denominator”. One of the like minds, Nick Davies, started
setting traps on his own property and helps Mike with his.The pair eventually became
what Mike calls the nucleus of the Tutukaka Landcare Coalition “which sounds rather
formal and boring”, he points out,“until you appreciate the acronym.”
TLC, like so many things Northland, is anything but formal – they’ve held just two
meetings in four years. The philosophy, Mike points out, has always been:“let’s get on
and do stuff rather than talking about it.”
And that’s what they’re doing, with help from the Landcare Trust. Its Northland regional
coordinator Helen Moodie says Tutukaka embodies the Landcare principle:“it’s about
looking after what’s on your own land... without the support of landowners you can’t
That support comes in different forms and levels of commitment. Some maintain their
own traps, while others are happy just to let a contractor onto their place to do it.“We
have a core of about seven or eight landowners,” says Mike,“though there are another
30 lending tacit support – which adds up to some 2500 ha.”
Mike Camm and Helen Moodie.
Photo: Dave Hansford/Origin
Natural History Media
That’s big enough, he reckons, to accommodate the
seasonal movements of predators – it means they can get
numbers low enough to get conservation gains. “We’re
not looking for total eradication – that would be nice, but
we don’t see it as a likelihood. We aim to get predators
down to levels that will allow kiwi and our other key
species – pateke, kakariki, what have you – to lift their
survival rate much higher than it otherwise would be.”
With support from the Department of Conservation,
WWF-New Zealand, Ducks Unlimited, Northland District
Council, Transpower and the Landcare Trust, TLC has
more than doubled the number of kiwi inside its bounds.
“Based on last year’s calls,” says Mike,“we think we have
somewhere between 130 and 200 birds.”
Tutukaka Landcare Coalition Now neighbouring districts want in.“Two other land care projects have started up as
members Nick Davies and Mike
Camm catch around 12 feral cats
a result of ours, just a few kilometres away,” says Mike,“it’s a matter of joining the dots
a year in their purpose-designed in the landscape.”
Photo: Dave Hansford/Origin As the scale has expanded, so has the scope. Now possums, cats and rats are in the
Natural History Media
crosshairs too, which means maintaining another 200 bait stations and live capture
traps (for cats) as well as the Fenns. For Mike and Nick, that adds up to long, plodding
hours of slog because, says Mike:“once you start on that road, you’ve got to cover all
your bases; there’s no way around it.”
If you take one pest out of the control mix, you can never be sure just how the others
will respond to the gap left behind – will rats erupt if you kill off the stoats? And what
might that mean for the smaller bush birds like fantails?
Even more impressive is that Mike’s operation is run from an old caravan that’s seen
its last stretch of tarmac, with a lean-to nailed up against it. He’s taken a decentralised
approach to planning this haven; 200m down the gravel drive, just before a battered
Mini, is his “communications centre”, a tin shed just big enough to keep his telephone
out of the Northland summer downpours. Somewhere in a bushy gully to the west, the
sound of hammer on tanalith announces the impending birth of his workshop.
At the drive’s end, with a view over the returning forest toward’s Nick’s place, is a
rustic ply-and-batten construction that is his bedroom. But right now, we’re slithering
up a clay track to his “ultimate house site”.
We break out from under the lanky kanuka into a view no Lotto win could buy; to the
east, the Poor Knights Islands dotting the horizon, the languid coastline of Ngunguru.
At our feet, his “own little national park” – ranks of rimu, totara and kauri.
Kereru swoop between the leafy rewarewa, and even before he can brag about them,
a ﬂock of kakariki chatter from overhead. Bellbirds regularly ﬂy from the Poor Knights
to feed here, as do kaka.Tui chortle at one another across the valley.
Best of all, Mike can bring the local schoolkids up here and know that they’ll hear kiwi
– lots of them.
From here, he can see the other blocks where like minds are doing the hard yards
along the trap lines, and beyond TLC’s boundary to distant quarters where people are
setting up their own projects. Helen Moodie says 19 other kiwi groups now treat some
53,000 ha – 60 per cent of it on private land – to give our national emblem in ﬂesh
and feather, a future in Northland.
Combating acts of dog – by Dave Hansford
At Whangarei Heads, six community groups have been controlling weeds and pests
Todd Hamilton, a contract
wildlife manager, checks a North over 6000 ha of native forest, pine plantations, scrub, pasture and wetland. Today the
Island brown kiwi at a farm area boasts more kiwi to the hectare than anywhere else in New Zealand, says Todd
near Whangarei Heads. While
Hamilton, a founding member of the Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum.
conservation work is going well,
roaming dogs continue to be a
One reason is the access to food all year round – the kiwi can chase crickets in rank
menace to kiwi.
Photos: Dave Hansford/Origin grass in the summer, and fossick for worms in pasture during the winter.Another saviour
Natural History Media is the abundant puriri; the fallen timber make for ready-made burrows impervious to
digging dogs, a major predator of kiwi.
The forum started trapping stoats in 2001 and hired Todd as a part-time
trapper the following year. Stoat numbers have been knocked down to the
point where land owners may go months without catching one.
As well as growing kiwi numbers, the area is seeing more tui and kukupa
(native pigeon), little blue penguins and visiting kaka from the Hen and
The forum can now afford to leave male kiwi to brood the eggs, as nature
intended. A few chicks are ﬁtted with transmitters to ensure the stoat
control is still working.
But the Whangarei Heads kiwi have not always done so well. Numbers had
dropped down to a few breeding pairs and isolated individuals. Today’s
managed population was kick-started in the last ﬁve years by releasing
around 50 subadults raised in captivity at Auckland Zoo, Whangarei Native
Bird Rescue Centre, and on predator-free Motuora and Matakohe/Limestone
Todd has named almost all of the Heads’ kiwi, some after sponsors – Flash
for Transpower, Bacon for Kiwi smallgoods – and others after the owners of
the land they live on. When they see Todd on the side of the road with his
antenna, they stop to ask how “their” kiwi is doing. A farmer who’s tuned
into the local kiwi is more likely to look after their dogs and keep them
away from kiwi.
W H E N UA K I T E – C O RO M A N D E L
The case for the defence – by Dave Hansford
One April morning Arthur Hinds discovered a vehicle half-hidden near his property,
looking like a pig dog carrier. “I suspected they might be on our block, I went up
and got to the dogs before the hunters did.” He found ﬁve dogs
locked onto a pig inside his boundary and shot three of them.
Pilloried in the media and on hunters’ web sites, the Coromandel
dairy farmer, Waikato regional councillor and chair of the
Whenuakite Kiwi Care Group is unrepentent. He knows dogs’
lethal impact on kiwi as well as anyone. In 1997 his own
Weimaraner killed one during a walk in the back paddocks. He
reported the death to DOC which sent a ranger to collect the
Whenuakite is a swathe of coastal broadleaf forest, an outrider of
Coromandel Forest Park, clothed in rimu and crowned with old
volcanic plugs and spires. This is the heart of the kiwi group’s
work, a partnership with DOC and Environment Waikato.
Whenuakite Kiwi Care Group Around the periphery are farmed steeplands, pine stands and regenerating scrub. It’s
chairman Arthur Hinds has zero
tolerance for roaming dogs on his hard country and the group controls predators over 50 properties – 560 traps on
Coromandel property. The trap 52km of lines. Hired contractors check most of them once a month in winter, and
below is for stoats.
fortnightly for the rest of the year. Landowners maintain the rest themselves.
Photos: Dave Hansford/Origin
Natural History Media
For their part, Arthur runs 36 traps on his family’s 465 ha, and his wife Diane is the
kiwi group’s treasurer. She says that while volunteers save the group around $60,000
annually in labour costs, fundraising still occupies most of their time and effort. Each
year, they have to ﬁnd $60,000 to $70,000, mostly to control stoats, ferrets, weasels
and feral cats.
Much of the shortfall is met by a government Biodiversity Condition and Advice Fund
Grant. Environment Waikato contributes, along with WWF-New Zealand and Bank of
New Zealand Save The Kiwi Trust.
The group monitors progress by staging regular call counts at 24 prescribed sites over
several but not consecutive nights. “In 2001 we counted 31 birds,” says Arthur. “This
year we had 68, which was absolutely brilliant.”
The next big step at Whenuakite was a DOC aerial 1080 poison operation aimed at
rats, timed to give the native birds a respite to breed. Most landowners in the kiwi care
group supported the operation.
P U K A H A / M T B RU C E
Recalling the choir – by Dave Hansford
Take a walk in most any mainland forest today, and you can hear yourself think, which
was more than could the teacher at Mt Bruce’s ﬁrst school. It’s said that she dismissed
her class one 19th Century morning because she couldn’t make herself heard above
the chorus of kokako outside.
SH 2 cleaves a route north from Masterton to Eketahuna, swinging close by the National
Wildlife Centre at Mt Bruce – known to Rangitaane people as Pukaha – squeezed
between the Tararua Range and the 942 ha that remain of Seventy-Mile Bush.
Ranks of totara, rimu and rata once crowded these hills between Masterton and
Norsewood.The calls of tui, kaka, bellbird pierced this misty, mossy realm, but birdsong
became swansong as one by one, the chorus departed the stage. Some of the singers
– the huia, piopio, bush wren, laughing owl – were never heard from again.
Even the most resilient, the kaka, tieke and kiwi, eventually ﬂed or perished as raging
clearance ﬁres devoured the forest, and the kokako went with them.
The Pukaha Mt Bruce Board means to bring the din back, and with the help of some
imaginative fundraising, ﬁerce local support and some friends in high places, they’ve
made a start.
Born out of the signatures of the Department of Conservation, the National Wildlife
Centre Trust, Rangitaane O Wairarapa and others, the Board has pledged to drive the
predators out of Pukaha and return its rightful occupants.
Like conservation anywhere, this project needs a lot of money – more than $200,000
a year – and commitment. Through Masterton mayor Bob Francis, the Board secured
both. “It became clear that to sustain this into the future,” he recalls, “it was going to
take a far bigger effort from the community. I suppose that’s where I got involved.”
In late 2004, Bob led a fundraising campaign that ended with a 12-hour telethon and
The reward for hours of more than $500,000 worth of support from local businesses and communities.
volunteer labour at Pukaha comes
for Daniel McKeague of Florida As well, the Board sells CDs of native birdsong and invites people to sponsor a hectare’s
as he releases a young kiwi back
into the forest.
worth of pest control each year, the sort of fresh thinking that has allowed species like
Photo: Dave Hansford/Origin kokako, kaka, and most recently the kiwi, a return appearance.
Natural History Media
DOC ranger Tony Silbery had a sense the plan might just come off when he had to ﬁnd
a bigger hall to hold their ﬁrst public meeting.“We had something like 300 people turn
up to hear Bob announce the kiwi plan – I was just amazed.”
Take the long labours of Rangitaane’s young men and women who spent three years
cutting tracks, 110km of them in sometimes atrocious weather, opening the way for
the trap lines marking Pukaha’s line in the sand between predators and paradise.
Kaka were the ﬁrst to return home, in 1996.The ﬁrst six kokako were released in July
2003. Then, in December the same year, six adult kiwi. Today, 11 kiwi range the hills
behind the visitor centre, the offspring of captive breeding efforts in the early 2000s
North Island brown kiwi leaving
their mark at Pukaha Mt Bruce.
at Rainbow Springs and Otorohanga and other centres. Last season, two kiwi set up
Photo: Stephanie Weller nest burrows barely ﬁve metres from the Centre’s busiest tracks.
There is no fence around Pukaha, and that’s down to a philosophy as much as any
practical consideration. Pukaha sets out to prove a point, says DOC Wairarapa Area
Manager Derrick Field:“On the mainland, you need to be able to control pests forever,
and simply fencing them out doesn’t achieve that. We wanted to demonstrate that it
could be done.”
A vision still more precious, says Tony Silbery, is the prospect of kiwi living within
the wider world, safe. “The day when a kiwi sets up a territory outside the reserve,
Testing stoat trapping methods at
I’ll be chuffed. I can’t wait till I’m up there one night and I see a bird trotting across a
Pukaha Mt Bruce.
Photo: Stephanie Weller neighbour’s property; I’ll be on the phone to them the next day.”
Meanwhile, Bob Francis – now chairman of the Pukaha
Mt Bruce Board – is making sure the bills get paid and
the traps keep getting set:“We have funding in place
now for the next ﬁve years and we’re also building a
capital fund – we’re up to close on $200,000 in that
– which we’ll be using beyond that ﬁve-year period.”
There are plans galore – new funding, education, a
new visitor centre, conservation training programmes
for young people emphasising mainland restoration.
Partnerships with Rangitaane (Tony likens it to the
conﬂuence of the Clutha and the Shotover), District
and Regional Councils which continue the pest control
beyond Pukaha’s bounds, with business (the Tui Brewery
down the road chipped in $275,000), with schools,
with Trade and Enterprise New Zealand, and with those
hectare-sponsors from suburbs all over the country.
“The thing about Pukaha,” says Tony, “is that it’s about
rebuilding as much as restoration.” For Rangitaane, their
young people get a glimpse of their spiritual estate, the
earth their ancestors walked on. For Bob Francis, it’s a
new life after 21 years of mayoral ofﬁce. For Derrick Field,
it’s a centre of learning:“A place where we’ll encourage
people to come and learn about mainland restoration
– a centre for research.”
For the people that pull off SH 2, it’s a chance to hear
that chorus again, lost to ﬁve generations.And an encore
by our namesake, our national likeness. Pukaha is
reaquainting us with our kiwi.
What you can do to help
There are many simple ways you can help to save the
kiwi. It does not matter if you live in a major urban
centre or in a rural area – we can all do our bit.
• Keep your dog under control, especially at night
• Avoid taking dogs into kiwi areas
• Do not dump unwanted pets (dogs, cats or ferrets)
in the bush. Give them to the SPCA to give them a
real chance, or humanely have them put down by a
• Report roaming dogs in kiwi areas
• Trap predators
• Fence off kiwi habitat
• Put a kiwi escape ramp in cattle stops
• Learn to recognise kiwi calls and report what you
• Covenant bush patches to protect them forever
• Manage a kiwi-friendly plantation forest
• Drive carefully at night and watch for kiwi on roads
• Volunteer your time and energy to local kiwi
• Visit the Bank of New Zealand Save The Kiwi website
and make an on-line credit card donation
• If you are a Bank of New Zealand customer, you can
choose a Save The Kiwi Eftpos card and a $10 annual
donation will be automatically deducted from your
• You can also choose to have a Save The Kiwi
cheque book. Each time a cheque book is issued,
a $4 donation is automatically deducted from your
account. All donations go directly to Bank of New
Zealand Save The Kiwi Trust and are allocated to
• Make a donation at any Bank of New Zealand branch
or via a Bank of New Zealand ATM machine
• Learn more about kiwi by visiting DOC or Bank of
New Zealand Save The Kiwi Trust websites: www.
Photos: Willowbank Wildlife Reserve