Birth of second rare white kiwi 'remarkable'

SNOWY WHITE:  Mauriora, the second white kiwi chick to hatch at Pukaha Mount Bruce this year.
MIKE HEYDON
SNOWY WHITE: Mauriora, the second white kiwi chick to hatch at Pukaha Mount Bruce this year.

A white Christmas is being celebrated at a Wairarapa wildlife centre, after the birth of a second rare pure white kiwi.

The rare chick hatched last Sunday in Pukaha Mount Bruce's kiwi nursery, where Manukura – the world's first white kiwi hatched in captivity – arrived in May.

Centre manager Kathy Houkamau said staff were "gob-smacked" by the Christmas miracle.

"While every kiwi is precious, to have a second white chick is a delightful gift, especially at this time of year."

Local iwi Rangitane o Wairarapa has named the chick Mauriora, meaning "sustained life".

Rangitane chief executive and Pukaha board member Jason Kerehi said it was a powerful name.

"This new kiwi is seen as an assurance that we are blessed with more than one special creature and there is potential for more."

Conservation Department captive breeding ranger Darren Page said it was remarkable that two birds with the rare white gene had paired up in 940-hectare Pukaha forest to produce two white chicks over two seasons.

"Both white birds have the same father, who we have identified through his transmitter," Mr Page said.

"We can't identify the mother but assume she is the same because of the rarity of the white gene."

There is a one-in-four chance of such a pair producing a white chick.

Eleven kiwi have hatched at the centre so far this season and of the two kiwi eggs incubating in the nursery, one is from the same nest as Mauriora.

"We'll have to wait and see what that brings," Mr Page said.

A small number of North Island brown kiwi carry the recessive white gene, which both the male and female must have to produce a white chick.

The parents were among 30 kiwi transferred from Hauturu/Little Barrier Island in 2010. The white gene is thought to have found its way into the kiwi population on Little Barrier Island after a white kiwi was put on the island early last century.

Holidaymakers can now see Manukura and brown kiwi in the nocturnal house, and view the new chick being hand-reared in the nursery from Boxing Day, where it will be for about 10 days.

In October Manukura swallowed two large stones and underwent ground-breaking surgery at Wellington Zoo.

The Dominion Post