Kiwi could return to Waitakere Ranges

CIARA PRATT
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2013
Dr Mark Bellingham
CIARA PRATT / Fairfax NZ
HOPEFUL: Dr Mark Bellingham wants to introduce kiwi into the Waitakere Ranges Ark in the Park project.

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Kiwi cmay return to the Waitakere Ranges for the first time in more than 20 years.
 
Ark in the Park, an open sanctuary for native birds, plans to re-introduce a number of native species to the forest including kiwi, kakariki and rifleman.

Kiwi were last introduced to the Ranges between 1979 and 1980 but were wiped out within three years because of a lack of pest control.

Dr Mark Bellingham, a sanctuary volunteer and North Island conservation manager for Forest & Bird, said introducing kiwi into the forest was in the ark's long-term plan. 

"Kiwi these days have trackers and we have much better pest control whereas back then there wasn't as much knowledge about pests such as stoats, so they weren't as protected."

Bellingham said it was not known when the birds would be introduced but the ark was working with the Department of Conservation to ensure a safe environment for them.

Ark in the Park, a partnership between Forest & Bird and Auckland Council, has relied on volunteers to keep operating over the past 10 years. 

It was started in 2003 on just 250ha with the aim of restoring functioning native ecosystems through pest control and the re-introduction of animals and plants lost to the Waitakere Ranges.

Today it covers about 2300ha and is home to birds such as kokakos, North Island robins, whiteheads and tomtits.

This area is surrounded by an 800ha pest control buffer zone maintained with the help of private residents.

Bellingham said the help of volunteers and neighbouring people has greatly contributed to the rising number of native bird species.
 
"We've got such a big area, we can use it as a core for protecting wildlife and I think over the next few years our plan will be focusing on doing more wildlife releases now that we have a successful big space," he said.

Art ecologist field officer Andy Warneford said the increased number of birds showed the project was working.
 
He said the rare kokako species has flourished with "conservative estimates" putting the number at 100 birds after starting with 26.
 
Warneford believes kiwi will be in the Waitakere Ranges within the next few years.
 
"I definitely think it's likely in the medium-to-long-term future. Kiwi would be high on the shopping list."

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