Rare rowi kiwi hatches successfully

The first of five rowi kiwi eggs incubating at the West Coast Wildlife Centre hatched early on...
The first of five rowi kiwi eggs incubating at the West Coast Wildlife Centre hatched early on Friday morning. Photo: Supplied
The population of the world's rarest kiwi officially increased by one on Friday morning following the hatching of the first rowi kiwi egg this breeding season at the West Coast Wildlife Centre.

Department of Conservation Bio-diversity manager Tracey Dearlove was in attendance and described the birth at 1.40am as a "perfect hatch", the chick weighing 334.6g and "sporting a white hair-do with pink middle toes and white toenails".

There are five species of kiwi living in the wild today but the rowi is the rarest having a population of fewer than 550 and found only in the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary near Franz Josef, South Westland.

Through a partnership with the Department of Conservation, rowi eggs are removed from the forest and transferred to the West Coast Wildlife Centre where they are incubated and hatched.

When big enough to be transferred, they are flown by Air New Zealand to the Willowbank Wildlife reserve where they remain for two months.

The chicks are then transferred to predator-free islands in the Marlborough Sounds, and when big enough to fight off stoats, they are returned to the Omeoroa Ranges.

Director and owner Richard Benton opened the centre in 2010 and said since then 299 rowi and 122 Haast tokoeka chicks have hatched and have been released into the wild.

The centre has four more rowi chick eggs due to hatch at any time.

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