The National Aquarium of New Zealand’s participation in a nationwide captive kiwi breeding programme is a largely unknown aspect of the Aquarium bird keepers’ duties. An offsite facility in Napier contains specialist kiwi husbandry areas and outdoor runs – everything needed to care for kiwi eggs, chicks and breeding adults. The Aquarium team breed and care for kiwi that support conservation advocacy around New Zealand.
Two years ago, Napier City Council donated use of a surplus area of the kiwi facility to Save the Kiwi Trust. Save The Kiwi use the area to raise kiwi that have been hatched at the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua. They keep them until the birds reach a ‘stoat proof’ weight of around 1kg and can be released to a wild habitat. Save the Kiwi have had 97 kiwi chicks through the facility since moving in.
The National Aquarium team has benefited from having Save the Kiwi next door - National Aquarium bird keepers Becs Cuthbert, Amy Giddens and others have received specialist training given by a member of the Save the Kiwi team. This has helped them achieve their certification as Kiwi Accredited Handlers. Kiwi handling skills include things like monitoring egg development, handling chicks and adults safely and administering medication.
“We are lucky to have an accredited kiwi handler trainer locally as there are a limited number in New Zealand,” says Becs.
“Our trainer is incredibly knowledgeable, with many years’ experience and is always available on the end of the phone too!”
Becs and Amy have worked effectively and efficiently with Save the Kiwi in their shared space, despite all the challenges that Covid-19 has thrown their way.
Covid safety protocols have meant the two teams couldn’t work together at times, and visitors and volunteers weren’t allowed on site. Save the Kiwi in particular relies on support from volunteers. The two teams often help each other out with bird health checks, which require more than one pair of hands.
North Island brown kiwi are now classified as ‘no longer threatened’. This recovery is due to intensive conservation efforts, made by the Save the Kiwi team and others. Here in Napier this has been supported by the partnership with Napier City Council and the National Aquarium of New Zealand.
10 June 2022
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