New Zealand: Week 2 “How to save a kiwi.”

c kiwi

The New Zealand native birds took quite a hit when humans stumbled upon the land. The giant flightless Moas disappearedalong with the  3m wingspanned eagle which preyed upon them.

Man and many of the animals that came with them, intentionally and unitentionally, picked off these  birds which had adapted to a land of no mammals and had no coping strategy with such efficient killers. Many are now extinct.

The kiwi is one of these endemic birds clinging on.

Over the last two weeks of volunteering at a nature reserve (which got it’s first footage of a kiwi living in the forest this Valentines day ❤️) I have been asking what can be done for a chance of kiwi  living naturally in New Zealand past 2050. This is what I have learnt:

1) The more native forests the better.

Kiwi nest in burrows in the forest undergrowth and feed on the insects that scuttle through the forest floor.  A pair of kiwi need 5hectares and their offspring need somewhere to skip about to, meet other young kiwi from a different family and have their own adorable fluffball babies. Also the deeper the forest the safer they are from predators.

A lot of forests were lost to farming and timber, reserves have saved vital kiwi habitat. As well as the kiwi other amazing animals thrive to. Like the massive kauri snail (or pupu rangi) and the Tui which calls out like R2D2 from the trees.

As more people appreciate these amazing forests the spread of disease can be a big problem for the biggest of trees, the Kauri. The public kauri forests I visited had shoe washing facilities to help halt this killing fungus.
2) Control dogs and cats in kiwi zones.

Dogs are the biggest killer of kiwi. Even a beloved pet dog can find a kiwi irresistible to  play with. As well as marking and enforcing areas as no dog zones, there are also kiwi friendly courses for dogs who live near by. This involves scattering kiwi poo across a path and giving a small electric shock to the dogs who are too interested until they are conditioned to ignore the smell.

Cats are the second biggest threat. Ferrel cats are trapped and cat owners are asked to keep their pets indoors at night when the are naturally most likely to hunt.

3) Reduce invasive  mammal numbers
The first two kiwi I saw had both been killed by stoats. I’ve seen a stoat tackle a rabbit 5 times its size and a kiwi is a similar sized meal, but kiwi do not breed like rabbits. Prey animals which have adapted to a predator can counter act the dent on their population by having more offspring, a ‘doomed surpluss’. A female kiwi can lay around four eggs a year, even if they all hatch that isn’t a lot of spare kiwi to pump up an already diminished population.

As well as snaffling a few kiwi eggs, rats can also snack on seeds of native trees reducing the forests. Australian possums gobble up the leaves of a single tree and kill it.

Poisons and traps are effective in keeping the numbers down but it is a never ending job and a lot of tramping through thick forest.

Worth it though right?


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