Safe new home for kiwi
Little Motutapu is just 11 days old, but this kiwi is kicking and fighting for the survival of the nation's symbol.
Motutapu, named after his new home, was among five Coromandel brown kiwi released yesterday on Motutapu Island, in the Hauraki Gulf.
Squirming and wiggling, Motutapu put up a fight as he was released to become one of Auckland's closest wild population of kiwi.
The kiwi will be just the first of 50 making a new home on the island, which was declared pest-free in August last year.
Motutapu, two juveniles and two adult lovers were flown in yesterday morning from the population of 1,500 Coromandel brown kiwi across the coast.
Splitting the population reduced the risk of Coromandel kiwi inbreeding and limiting genetic variation within the species.
Sir Graham Henry, patron for charitable trust Kiwis for Kiwis, said he once mistakenly assumed the kiwi population was stable.
"I was deeply concerned to find out that without our help, kiwi would be virtually gone from the mainland in our lifetime," he said in a statement.
Kiwi born in unprotected areas have just a five per cent chance of surviving until breeding age.
The Department of Conservation spent two decades ridding Motutapu Island of mice, rats, cats, rabbits, possums and wallabies.
Since then the bird life has returned, including a lone takahe that will be joined by eight friends next month.
Department of Conservation project manager Andrew Nelson had a hand in releasing Motutapu into the wild.
The little guy would spend the day resting then explore his new surroundings, he said.
And the chances of survival are good.
"They're going to have a really good future as long as the island stays pest-free," Nelson said.
Rick Braddock, who farms the island under a lease from DOC, said they've had to fill in the cattle stops and cut back the gorse to prepare for the native birds' arrival.
Up to 50 brown kiwi will be released on Motutapu Island over the next five years.
Some of Motutapu's future baby kiwi could be returned to the Coromandel to mate with their ancestors and increase the diversity of the gene pool.
Kiwis for Kiwis chairman Rob Fenwick said pest-free areas are becoming scarce so habitats like Motutapu Island are a last resort for struggling kiwi populations.