High up in the native bush on the northern side of Egmont National Park, five young kiwi are getting used to their new homes.
On Saturday they were carried there in individual boxes by members of the Taranaki Kiwi Trust, then released into specially prepared shelter holes.
And as they completed their journey which had taken them from Taranaki to the Maungatautari ecological island near Cambridge and back, plans were in place to take 100 petrel chicks on a longer journey.
The North Island brown kiwi are the first to be returned to Taranaki in a breeding programme in which eggs were taken from eastern Taranaki hill country and transferred to pest-free Maungatautari. After being welcomed and blessed by Ngati Maru iwi at Inglewood, the young birds were carried into a stoat-trapped area within the national park, and freed.
Experts with the 23-strong group that tramped for more than hour into the bush, said the kiwi will begin breeding within two to three years.
The petrel chicks are being collected from burrows on Motumahanga – Saddleback Island – just off the New Plymouth coast to go to a predator-free sanctuary at Cape Kidnappers.
Stoats and cats have decimated mainland petrel populations in recent years.
"This is a chance to establish petrel breeding colonies on the mainland again," Conservation Department marine supervisor Bryan Williams said. "[On Tuesday], with the blessing of Ngati Te Whiti, hapu of Te Atiawa, we checked out the colony on Motumahanga and the breeding season seems to be a little later this year.
"The chicks are either a few days old or the birds are still on their eggs. We'll head back in a month or so and by then the chicks can be safely removed."
Tamsin Ward-Smith, sanctuary manager at Cape Kidnappers, said the birds were chosen for relocation based on weight and wing size. "The diving petrels need to be around 130 grams and have a wingspan of between 95 and 100 millimetres.
"It's usually around 40 days old that we collect them and we aim to have them on site for 10 days to two weeks. They fledge naturally at two weeks."
Ms Ward-Smith said it was fantastic that the sanctuary was able to source diving petrel chicks from Motumahanga Island to re-establish a colony on Cape Kidnappers peninsula.
Next month's move will be the first of four in the next four years, and 100 chicks will be taken each time. Mr Williams said this would benefit Taranaki's petrel population. "There are about 10,000 seabirds on Motumahanga so those remaining should enjoy more space."
Search for Taranaki Kiwi Trust on YouTube to see a video of the kiwi release.
- Taranaki Daily News
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