Hopes of bettering kiwi experience

Visitors to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary will have the chance to see kiwi roaming in a semi-wild environment, if the wishes of departing ecosanctuary trust chairman Neville Peat are heard.

Mr Peat delivered his last report at the organisation's annual meeting this week after six years as chairman.

The ecosanctuary continued to succeed in its goals of ecological restoration and environmental education, but he hoped a kiwi experience programme would be developed to increase the profile of the bird, Mr Peat said.

The experience would offer visitors the chance to see a pair of Haast tokoeka kiwi at dusk, he said.

"The programme would raise the profile for the endangered bird, as well as providing locals and visitors with a rare experience.''

The programme was dependent on the success of a Department of Conservation pest control programme in South Westland.

At present, the ecosanctuary provided a kiwi creche for eight juvenile kiwi, but if a pest eradication project in South Westland was successful the creche would no longer be needed, because risks to the kiwi in their natural habitat would be eliminated and resources could be transferred to the kiwi experience, he said.

The ecosanctuary was liaising with local runanga and the Department of Conservation on the project.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary general manager Chris Baillie said the kiwi experience would provide a vision of what New Zealand used to be like and what it could be like.

"A lot of human Kiwi haven't seen a kiwi, and it is almost easier to see a kiwi in other parts of the world now, believe it or not.''

About 20 adult kiwi lived at the ecosanctuary, but they could be difficult to see, she said.

Mr Peat also hoped a predator control block would be established on a 240ha ridge of Mihiwaka, beside the ecosanctuary.

The area could become a "stepping stone'' for rare flighted species leaving the ecosanctuary.

The predator control block could benefit the South Island kaka and robin, both of which had strong populations within the ecosanctuary, he said.

"I like to think of it as a corridor; Orokonui to the Octagon sounds pretty good to me.

"Eventually, we might have kaka coming into people's backyards.''

The Otago Natural History Trust's two other trustees, Alyth Grant and Graeme Leith, also stepped down from their roles.

Ms Baillie praised the work of the trustees and their "great knowledge'' of wildlife.

The appointment of new trustees would be announced in about two weeks, she said.

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