A new state-of-the-art kiwi hatching facility, now located within the world-class Wairakei Golf Course, north of Taupo, will dramatically ramp up kiwi numbers in the fight to save the national icon from extinction.
The Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow, which was opened last month, is the only incubation facility in New Zealand inside a predator-free area.
The purpose-built incubation facility can hatch and brood around 150 kiwi chicks every year once operating at capacity, and will nearly double the number of eggs incubated annually in the North Island.
As part of Kiwis for kiwi’s strategy, the facility has been specifically designed to incubate kiwi eggs and hold the young chicks until around three to four weeks old before being released to kohanga kiwi, predator-free sites.
These are usually fenced areas or islands, which provide a nursery for the permanent population. The chicks will grow, find a partner, breed and in the future, when the site nears capacity, their offspring, once weighing 1kg, will be removed and released to safe places in the wild.
Kiwis for kiwi executive director Michelle Impey says the Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow will help maximise the work of Operation Nest Egg, which involves lifting eggs from monitored kiwi in the wild, incubating in captivity and rearing the chick in a predator-free site until it is deemed “stoat safe” before being returned to the wild.
“We are using a proven formula that works to deliver on the national strategy to turn the kiwi population’s two per cent decline into a two per cent increase.
“By providing a launch pad to scale up production, it will allow us to do in five-10 years what would have taken 50 years or more. This unique facility will be the conduit to achieving our goal of taking kiwi from endangered to everywhere,” says Michelle.
The dedicated kiwi incubation, hatching and brooding facility has been built to best practice standards and will be staffed by kiwi husbandry experts.
Claire Travers, who previously led the team at The National Kiwi Hatchery for 18 years and is known as the ‘Godmother’ of kiwi egg incubation, will work here alongside Claire a number of specialist kiwi husbandry experts from around NZ.
Kiwis for kiwi previous chair and now patron Sir Rob Fenwick says NZ is today precariously balanced on a knife edge with its kiwi population.
“Kiwi are facing the point of no return if support is not ramped up. Fortunately, thanks to many organisations and communities that are giving their time, energy and funds to provide safe habitat, there is hope.
“Providing facilities that can seriously increase the production of kiwi chicks is the key to increasing numbers and genetic diversity, both of which are critical to avoid extinction.
“As Predator Free 2050 efforts ramp up, there will be even more predator controlled and protected areas waiting for new kiwi populations to be introduced. This gives us a real shot at turning around the two per cent decline,” says Rob.
Eggs delivered to the facility will initially be sourced from the Tongariro/Taranaki/Whanganui regions and once old enough, will be released to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, the kohanga site for Western brown kiwi. As work scales up, eggs will gradually arrive from the Eastern North Island and possibly Coromandel.
Build and fit-out
The Crombie Lockwood Burrow has been made possible through ongoing support from insurance brokers, Crombie Lockwood. Wairakei Golf and Sanctuary owner Gary Lane, a long-term supporter of Kiwis for kiwi, has provided the site for the Kiwi Burrow and underwritten the cost of the build. Non-profit KiwiSaver provider, Simplicity, is funding the fit-out which includes incubators, brooder boxes and all of the supporting equipment required from electronic scales to bowls for feeding the chicks.
Kiwis for kiwi is the country’s national charity dedicated to protecting kiwi. Working in partnership with DOC, they raise and distribute funds to kiwi conservation projects across NZ with a vision is to take kiwi from endangered to everywhere. Find out more at: www.kiwisforkiwi.org
The first kiwi chick from the Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow.