It’s always a great feeling when you see the rewards of your establishment’s conservation efforts. When you work with kiwi one of the best rewards available is when we see them released back into the forest. It’s also pretty exciting to bring kiwi eggs in from the forest. This is one of the first steps in our kiwi ranger’s journey to helping to ensure it will survive in the wild.
The rangers at Pukaha have been lucky enough recently to experience both these milestones and only a few days apart.
Lead kiwi ranger Jess Flamy and volunteers Serena and Daniella headed out to the Pukaha back country last week to release not one kiwi but 3 North Island brown kiwi. The 3 kiwi from last year’s breeding season were released into the back country on Pukaha’s 942 hectares of protected forest.
The Pukaha forest is protected by a circle of 0ver 750 traps that create an inland island. Along with the 942 hectare reserve there is also a 2000 hectare “buffer zone” which is trapped by 2 separate regional councils. Pukaha is surrounded by neighbouring farmland and in some cases the farmers themselves help maintain the very important buffer zone.
With the introduction last year of new technology traps, GPS tracking and trapping systems and smarter more robust trapping methods the Pukaha forest is home to growing wild populations of kiwi, kokako, tomtit, rifleman, kereru, kaka, tui, bellbird, fantail, morepork, whitehead, waxeye, native falcons, geckos, weta and long finned eels.
As well as the many wild populations of endemic New Zealand species Pukaha holds captive breeding programmes for tuatara, whio (Blueduck), pateke (brown teal), shore plover and red-crowned kakariki. There is advocacy species on site of orange fronted kakariki, antipodes island parakeet, hihi, kokako and kiwi.
Pukaha’s kiwi programme takes part in the national recovery programme Operation Nest Egg-O.N.E. Through its engagement with O.N.E Pukaha reached a milestone of hatching its 100th kiwi chick in the Pukaha kiwi nursery last year. In this programme around 10-20 kiwi eggs are brought in from the nest of monitored kiwi from the Pukaha forest. These eggs are incubated and hatched in the Pukaha nursery. The kiwi chick are then kept in a predator fenced area of the reserve until they reach around 1.2 kilo. At this weight kiwi are determined to be “stoat proof” or considered big and strong enough to fight off most predators. The kiwi are then released back into the Pukaha reserve.
The Pukaha forest could possibly house around 120 kiwi. With the effects of global warming and 4 recorded beech mast in the last 5 years the population numbers of kiwi at Pukaha has fluctuated. A beech mast occurs when beech trees drop their seeds, which in turn creates more food for predator populations, this means they breed more as they feel they have adequate food for more young. This is a pattern that should be repeating itself every 3-5 years but lately has become a more usual occurrence. Continuing challenges such as these mean Pukaha has to stay one step ahead, embrace new technologies in trapping and investigate more efficient predator control options.
Recently Pukaha has seen a 400% increase in the amount of ferrets caught at the reserve in comparison to the same period last year. This was achieved by specifically targeting ferrets over the time of year when juvenile ferrets would be leaving the burrow. This strategy is just one example of new thinking in the Pukaha battle to keep our forest safe for the wildlife.
An investment in Goodnature self-resetting traps around the reserve has also seen the results for rat numbers drop. This is particularly handy in the harder to access back country.
With Pukaha’s continued commitment to being leaders in the field of protecting our forest without building predator proof fences around us, Pukaha’s wildlife will continue to grow. It will of course mean that Pukaha is always one step ahead. To quote one of our rangers-“They don’t stop so neither can we!” All this new technology and new thinking will help ensure that rewards like above become a permanent fixture at Pukaha Mount Bruce.
Laura Hutchinson, Marketing and Communication, Pukaha Mount Bruce