Single ferret likely wiped out nearly half of Hunua Ranges kiwi population
One ferret has "quite likely" killed nearly half of the kiwi living in a forest in rural south Auckland.
Seven kiwi were released into the Hunua Ranges Regional Park earlier this year in a bid to repopulate the area after a 40-year hiatus, but just four remain, Auckland Council's regional parks manager Rachel Kelleher said.
A large ferret believed to be responsible for three kiwis' deaths had since been caught in a trap.
"These types of situations are part of the challenge of managing kiwi in the wild – if it was easy, they would be abundant," she said.
Kelleher said DNA analysis had confirmed the same ferret had preyed on two of the dead kiwi, and fur samples from the scene of the third kiwi's death were also from a ferret.
"Based on the results from the other two birds we believe it is quite likely it could be the one ferret responsible," she said.
Ferrets had not been noted in earlier pest monitoring of the Hunua Ranges, but would be targeted in the next few weeks to ensure their elimination, Kelleher said.
Stoats were thought to be the main risk to the Hunua kiwi. The brown kiwi were originally from the Coromandel and were fitted with transmitters allowing handlers to track their locations.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the deaths indicated stronger measures were needed to eliminate pests in the region.
"This is sad news and a blow to the partners, staff and volunteers who have worked hard to release kiwi into the Hunuas," he said.
"It shows that one ferret is all it takes to undo the enormous effort that has been made to establish a new home for kiwi in south Auckland."
Another three kiwi were killed in June and July, by a dog on Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf.