10 kiwi chicks released into stoat-free sanctuary

Tuatahi, held by Orokonui Ecosanctuary head ranger Kelly Gough, was the first of 10 Haast tokoeka...
Tuatahi, held by Orokonui Ecosanctuary head ranger Kelly Gough, was the first of 10 Haast tokoeka kiwi chicks released at the sanctuary yesterday, as part of its kiwi creche programme. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.

Tip, Daredevil, Carter, Sheeran and Falkor were among kiwi chicks introduced to Orokonui Ecosanctuary yesterday, after the "kiwi creche'' and reserve were declared stoat-free.

Ten Haast tokoeka kiwi were released into the sanctuary for the first time in a year after three stoats wreaked havoc on the bird population, including killing up to 50 saddlebacks.

About 50 people gathered to see the release of the first of the chicks, Tuatahi, from the West Coast Wildlife Centre.

Department of Conservation biodiversity ranger Sian Reynolds, of Haast, said Haast tokoeka kiwi were critically endangered. Only 400 were left, and it was fantastic Orokonui was able to care for them.

"We're really, really lucky to have Orokonui on board to help us with our chicks,'' Miss Reynolds said.

"We are very proud to be partnering with Orokonui to help save these guys from extinction.''

Tuatahi was about 800g, and 3 months old, which was deemed sufficient to have the kiwi fending for itself in a reserve.

He and the other kiwi chicks at Orokonui would be released to predator-free sites in the wild when they reached about 1.2kg in mid-March.

Miss Reynolds said 1.2kg was "kind of seen as stoat-proof''.

Ecosanctuary general manager Chris Baillie said there was no formal naming process for the chicks but it was done in consultation with iwi.

She confirmed that Carter was named after All Black Dan Carter, Sheeran after singer Ed Sheeran and Falkor after the luck dragon from the film The Neverending Story.

With regard to stoat protection, Ms Baillie said staff were looking at solutions to improve a water gate running through the security fence, which was thought to be the stoats' entry point.

The last of the stoats was eradicated from the sanctuary in November.

Last week, Orokonui employed the services of a stoat detection dog, a terrier named Burt, that was involved in an "intense'' four-day hunt at a cost of $8000.

New traps and technology were also installed bringing the total monetary cost of the problem to $10,000.

Burt found no sign of stoats, which was good news, Ms Baillie said.

rhys.chamberlain@odt.co.nz

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