Home > News > Archive > 13th December 2007

Birth of kiwi on Maunga will see project fly ahead

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier
Kiwi chick
THEIR FUTURE IN OUR HANDS: the first kiwi chick to be born on Maungatautari in over 100 years will be named some time around Christmas. Photo by Phil Brown.

Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust’s ‘kiwi dream’ comes to fruition

By Kingsley Field

For the first time in a century, a kiwi chick has hatched on Maungatautari.

The chick, as yet un-named and only a few days old, is the offspring of two-year-old kiwi pair Elmo and Atua.

Elmo, the male, spent more than 80 days in a burrow in the southern enclosure of the 3400-hectare ecological island conservation reserve, hatching the chick.

The reserve, created five years ago, was ring-fenced two years ago with a two-metre-high Xcluder pest-proof fence, and the 65-ha southern enclosure, also fenced off with the Xcluder mouse-to-deer-proof fencing, has now been cleared completely of all pests and predators.

The forest-clad ecological island is completely surrounded by farmland, and in 2005 the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust began reintroducing native bird species to the area. Kiwi were among the first to be brought in, Elmo having been hatched at the Fairy Springs, Rotorua, kiwi incubation unit, and Atua from the Otorohanga Kiwi House.

Jim Mylchreest, chief executive of the trust, said today everyone associated with Maungatautari was “absolutely over the moon”.

“We are just delighted - this is what we have all been working towards for the past five years,” he said. “There’s been a huge amount of work in that time, from the trust, our hundreds of volunteers, local iwi who have given us great backing, and land-owners around the mountain. Now we can begin to show the world that such large-scale projects for conservation can work, and that they are worth taking on.”

Mr Mylchreest said it was “highly unusual” for such young birds to successfully mate and hatch a chick.

“Usually kiwi are three to five years old before they breed successfully in the wild,” he said.“The hatching of this chick indicates that conditions on Maungatautari are very good for kiwi, and we are hoping the other 10 kiwi we have here may breed this season or next.”

Mr Mylchreest said the kiwi chick was filmed not long after it was discovered, and it has now been fitted with a tracking transmitter so its movements inside the southern enclosure can be monitored.

After hatching, kiwi chicks are left entirely on their own, and the male kiwi, which carries out the hatching, neither feeds it nor
gives it any protection after the first few days. For this reason, about 95 per cent of kiwi hatched in the wild are killed by predators within the first few months of life.

Mr Mylchreest said the new chick had every chance of survival, and the Maungatautari trust hoped that within a few years a number of other chicks would be successfully hatched on the mountain and that the ecological island would become a reservoir of kiwi for other parts of the country.

The new chick is to be named in a special ceremony conducted by iwi on the mountain within the next few weeks.

A recent $500,000 Grant from the Lion Foundation will enable the trust to make an immediate start on expansion of visitor facilities, especially at the top of Tari Road, Pukeatua, adjacent to the southern enclosure, which now attracts more than a thousand visitors a month. Toilets and additional parking areas will be provided, and further tracks will be cut through new areas of the mountain.

The grant is on top of an earlier $1.25 million grant from the Lion Foundation.

“The hatching of our first kiwi chick will mean a great deal of public interest in the ecological island, and we need to be able to cater to that interest,” Mr Mylchreest said.