The Kiwi is New Zealand's national symbol. They're a flightless, omnivorous bird, and a whole lot of fun to film at your feet in their natural habitat. Click the video below for an introduction.
To hear a kiwi call in the wild is a very special experience. Click on the video below to hear and see the very rare footage of a wild male, southern brown kiwi calling - and breaking the rules - calling during daylight hours.
A technique used by the Department of Conservation called Operation Nest Egg, involves radio tagging wild kiwi, removing their eggs from nests, and then hatching them in incubators. The young birds are then released back into the wild when they reach a weight of about 1 kilogram. The controversial technique is used mostly in poisoned forests, and the long-term survival rate of the birds is low.
Conversely, some populations of wild kiwi remaining in forests that have never been aerially poisoned, are holding their own and even thriving. Te Urewera National Park is one example, and Stewart Island is another. Click the video below to receive an introduction to Operation Nest Egg in action in the regularly poisoned Tongariro National Park.
The chart below is from a 1997 Department of Conservation commissioned research paper. Among other concerning warnings, it shows that kiwi are known to eat cereal baits and that the risk of their non-recovery (if the poisoning operations continue) is "High". The paper was released 20 years ago, and the poisoning drops have not only continued, they've increased. The researchers were right - and in some areas where the poison is repeatedly used, kiwi is now eradicated. Click here to view the full study.
The graph below gives an example of how kiwi in the poisoned forests - Mt Bruce Wildlife Sanctuary, and Tongariro Kiwi Sanctuary - are struggling, verses kiwi in the un-poisoned Okahu Valley forest, which the Department of Conservation has been using as a kiwi egg producer for their advocacy areas for the last 15 years.
Evidence shows that kiwi are struggling to survive in poisoned forests. Kiwi are known to eat cereal poison bait and In some forests, like the Southern Pureora - which is prime kiwi habitat and has endured 5 aerial poison drops - kiwi are now extinct. In this research chart which was released in the 1990s, it states kiwi are "occasionally" exposed to 1080 poison. Other birds mentioned in the chart have now been found dead after aerial drops. All birds, insects and bats are now regularly exposed. Kiwi are now regularly exposed and found dead in high numbers in poisoned forests, but very few kiwis are tested for poison residues if any.
Forests are now poisoned all over New Zealand where kiwi live or were once present. Click on the video below to view how introduced kiwi are surviving in a regularly poisoned forest sanctuary in the Wairarapa region.
Kiwi management is clearly best undertaken by leaving them to fend for themselves, or in some cases, to use only non-poison, targeted animal control methods in areas deemed sustainably manageable. Aerially spreading 1080 poison bait across kiwi habitat is clearly a "conservation tool" that isn't working.
On a light-hearted note, click on the video below to be entertained with close-up kiwi encounters.