Survival of kiwis rests on funding

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 12:40 15/05/2014

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A third Kiwi chick has been hatched to a pair of great spotted kiwi moved to the 8000 hectare area in Kahurangi National Park last year by the voluntary pest protection group Friends of Flora.

But its survival, and that of the other translocated 30 adult great spotted kiwi and the five chicks hatched in recent years, depends not only on the efforts of the voluntary pest control group but if the area wins Department of Conservation funding under its new ranked natural heritage management systems programme.

The wee chick was found with its parents, Hoire and Poai, in their Deep Creek burrow over the weekend during an annual transmitter change on the adult birds by the group's kiwi team. FOF is now looking at the possibility of moving more great spotted kiwi into the area to create a sustainable population.

Friends of Flora chairman Peter Adams said the latest chick meant three pairs of the eight adults moved from the Lyell area last May had successfully mated and produced young. The challenge now was for the young chicks to survive not only winter but next summer's impending explosion of rats and stoats following the current high seeding of the native beech trees.

The Lyell kiwi joined 12 great spotted kiwi moved in March from the Roaring Lion region into the Flora area of Kahurangi National Park which is protected by the group's volunteers in conjunction with the Department of Conservation. One chick has hatched from that group.

In 2010 the group re-settled 12 great spotted kiwi from Heaphy's Clark Valley area. Two chicks have since hatched from the group, but two adults have since died of natural causes.

Adams said the FOF was now looking at moving more great spotted kiwi into the area to improve the population's genetic diversity. The concept is supported by DOC and the national Kiwi Recovery Group, which met in Queenstown.

"They said we were doing a good job and supported another translocation if needed. We need to have enough birds in there to have a sustainable population. We have 30 adult birds right now and really want to have about 40." He hoped the verbal backing would translate into physical support under DOC's new natural heritage management system.

DOC has identified about 1000 potential work locations around New Zealand that represent a comprehensive range of New Zealand's land and freshwater ecosystems. Prioritising the list is based around cost, the type of ecosystem, if important threatened species are located there and where the greatest potential gains can be made.

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Adams said the FoF project ranked 300th on the list, but securing funding meant the group would have to increase its workload to manage the ecosystem as a whole, not just protect species. This would mean increasing its rat trapping and installing bait stations.

"We will probably work with DOC over the next few months on a more detailed plan", he said.

FOF's 80-plus volunteers run 1125 stoat traps between the Flora carpark and the Cobb ridge. Many of the stoat traps have possum and rat traps alongside them. Of the 22 trap lines, covering 113km in total, 18 are managed by FOF and four by DOC.

DOC could not be reached for comment.

- The Nelson Mail

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