Kiwi survey in Taranaki returns 'staggering' results

The project is the country's largest for the Western Brown Kiwi and numbers are now booming.
Bruce Mercer

The project is the country's largest for the Western Brown Kiwi and numbers are now booming.

A major kiwi survey being undertaken at a block of land in Taranaki is returning phenomenal results.

The East Taranaki Environment Trust (ETET) is driving a project which aims to have 1000 pairs of Western North Island Brown Kiwi inhabiting the project's 13,000 hectare block at Purangi, east of Inglewood, by 2020.

In April the trust kicked off an intensive $25,000 survey, funded through the TSB Community Trust, of the kiwi habitat.

Bob and Karen Schumacher are tireless crusaders for saving the kiwi.
Andy Jackson

Bob and Karen Schumacher are tireless crusaders for saving the kiwi.

Karen Schumacher, who chairs the trust, said the results, so far, are staggering.

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"Early indications are that we will be blowing that goal out of the water," she said.

The community project, named the Purangi Kiwi Project, is the country's largest for the specific breed and numbers were booming, even as the kiwi population declines nationally at a rate of two per cent a year.

Schumacher said if the early results were confirmed to be across the rest of the project zone then the population growth in the area would be sitting at around nine per cent a year - "which is staggering - it's really, really exciting," she said.

Every two years a kiwi call survey is undertaken within the project site and then compared to previous observations. The current survey combined 80 acoustic listening sites as well as 32 manual.

For the past few weeks a team of experienced kiwi trackers have headed out for three nights at each site for a two-hour period. 

The manual results were compared with the acoustic and if they came back the same Schumacher said they knew they can extrapolate the information throughout the rest of the project.

"If the acoustics show that they are everywhere else in there then we're looking at over 800 pair," she said.

"But what's also exciting is the chicks and the juveniles don't call and so there's likely to be a couple of thousand unaccounted for. When they start calling by next season and the season after we'll be well over the one thousand mark."

The team of listeners have reported the project area has a high food source and so Schumacher said the trustees were now in discussions about the area's carrying capacity.

And as the population grows so does the native bird's habitat.

They were now spilling outside of the project zone and Schumacher said they had become a part of the wider community.

"What we find is that the Kiwi are in the bush, they're in the pine forest they are on the farmland - they are a part of our community."

It's the best result she could have asked for when she and her husband Bob Schumacher established ETET in 2005 after discovering kiwi on their 197-hectare run-off at Purangi.

Since then the pair have been working tirelessly to create a safe environment for our country's icon to thrive.

When asked what drove her passion she holds her hand to her heart.

"I'm a Kiwi...heart and mind," she said.

Brown kiwi 

  • Brown kiwi live in the North Island
  • There are four distinct forms, including the Western Brown Kiwi
  • The brown kiwi is one of our most common kiwi species
  • The population is steadily declining by about 2–3 per cent a year
  • Without ongoing support, experts estimate brown kiwi will be extinct in the wild within two generations
  • The brown kiwi is faster at breeding than other kiwi, producing up to two eggs a clutch, and one to two clutches a year
  • Northland brown kiwi grow to about 40 cm tall, with differences between the sexes
  • Females are on average 20–30% heavier than males, weighing around 2.8 kg
  • Females have bills ranging from 117 mm to 156 mm long, while male bills range from 86 mm to 119 mm

Source: Department of Conservation.

 - Stuff

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