With the realisation that the Okarito Rowi and Haast Tokoeka kiwi populations were facing the real possibility of becoming extinct, the Department of Conservation (DOC) directed its efforts to secure the populations of these two species with the help of Operation Nest Egg.
Dedicated kiwi breeding centre
In 2005, the Trust was approached by DOC to help with the incubation of the eggs and initial rearing of the chicks for these two precious species.
At the time the Trust’s kiwi breeding facility had only been used for North Island Brown kiwi. The facility consisted of one small incubation room, a brooder room where the chicks were looked after, and a small kitchen.
It became obvious that it was necessary to expand the kiwi breeding facility. With the help of donated materials and paint, some very enthusiastic staff, Trust members and volunteers, the facility took on a new look.
The incubation area was doubled and the brooder area tripled in size. An additional area was built where the newly hatched chicks are kept in TLC incubators for a few days, as well as another room which is used specifically to clean eggs brought in from the field. The facility is large enough to accommodate up to 100 eggs.
Once we began to receive wild chicks, a separate brooder room with its own kitchen was added. This ensures that there is no cross contamination between chicks from the wild and chicks being hatched in a managed situation.
The numbers of eggs and wild chicks brought to us continued to increase and by the 2010/11 season we received 45 Rowi and 27 Tokoeka eggs. This meant that a total number of 182 Rowi and 92 Tokoeka eggs/chicks had been managed at our facility by the end of 2011.
Looking after the chicks
It was at this stage that a facility was built at Franz Joseph to accommodate Okarito Rowi and Haast Tokoeka eggs. Retrieved eggs are incubated at the West Coast Wildlife Centre. Once the chicks are three weeks old the Haast Tokoeka chicks are released into the Orokonui Ecosanctuary while the Okarito Rowi chicks are transferred to us. The chicks are placed into large pens where the chicks learn to adjust to the outdoor environment. This process is called ‘soft release’ as food is provided and they are carefully monitored.
The chicks stay with us for approximately one month, after which they are transported to predator-free islands. It’s here that the chicks can grow up in a safe environment before being released backs into the wild when they weigh 1.2kg’s.
In the 2017/18 season, 54 Okarito Rowi and two Haast Tokoeka chicks were managed at our facility.
As of March 2019, a total of 299 Okarito Rowi and 109 Haast Tokoeka have been cared for at the facility, before being released to predator free sites.
The Trust’s kiwi breeding programme is self-funded. We don’t receive government funding.
All donations are greatly appreciated.