Captive-bred kiwi have been released into the predator-managed Egmont National Park to boost the wild population in a joint initiative by the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA), the Taranaki Mounga Project, Taranaki Kiwi Trust, the Department of Conservation and other partners.
It’s good news for the at-risk birds, whose population is in decline due to predators like dogs and ferrets.
The kiwi were bred at ZAA-accredited facilities Otorohanga Kiwi House, Rainbow Springs Nature Park and Te Puia, and selected for release by the ZAA Kiwi Species Coordinator, Todd Jenkinson, who also makes decisions for the breeding programme.
“A lot goes into selecting the right animals for release,” said Mr Jenkinson. “The kiwi we’ve chosen are important because they are breeding-age adults and will introduce new genes into the wild population at Egmont National Park.”
Their beginnings in a captive environment don’t pose much of a challenge to the kiwi headed out into the real world.
“Kiwi have very strong hard-wired instincts and adapt to the wild very quickly,” said Mr Jenkinson.
“During their time in the programme, zoo staff provide multiple opportunities for the birds to forage naturally and, before release, they have an adjustment period for natural day/night hours.”
With a second release planned at Kaweka Forest Park, the programme will have released 16 mature breeding-age kiwi this year. The next group of kiwi are now in preparation for release at Kiwi Birdlife Park, Orana Wildlife Park, Rainbow Springs Nature Park and Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.
“The Department of Conservation is really excited to support the release of two captive kiwi onto Taranaki Mounga,” said Gareth Hopkins, DOC Operations Manager.
“The release is part of a group of six captive western brown kiwi that will be released onto the mountain, in the hopes to increase kiwi population and support breeding. The kiwi will be monitored for the next year (for survival and dispersal). Once monitoring is completed it is anticipated that 100 more western brown kiwi will be translocated.”
This release comes as some zoos and wildlife parks welcome new chicks under Operation Nest Egg (ONE). The project assists kiwi chicks in making it past the vulnerable juvenile age to adulthood by collecting eggs, raising them and releasing the kiwi into predator-free sites once they grow big enough.
As a peak body, the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) represents the collective voice of the zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries and wildlife parks across Australasia that operate to the highest standards.
ZAA and its member zoos lead over 100 breeding programmes in support of conservation and community education. ZAA Relationships & Collection Development Manager, Todd Jenkinson manages the kiwi programme as Species Coordinator and sits on the Kiwi Recovery Group.
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