The World’s Rarest Kiwi – First Hatch
The hatching season for the world’s rarest kiwi is off to a very encouraging start in Franz Josef today with the arrival of the 1st kiwi chick of the breeding season at 1:40am this morning.
There are five species of kiwi living in the wild today and the rowi kiwi is the rarest of them all ,with a population of less than 550.
Weighing in at just 334.6g the egg came into the West Coast Wildlife Centre less than seven days ago with Tracey Dearlove – Department of Conservation Bio-Diversity Supervisor.
It was a perfect hatch this morning sporting a white hair do with pink middle toes and white toenails !
Already four kiwi eggs are quietly incubating at the West Coast Wildlife Centre in Franz Josef.
Rowi are the rarest kiwi in the world and found only in the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary near Franz Josef, South Westland.
The Department of Conservation actively manages the population, running landscape scale predator control operations to protect the birds. Ground trapping to provide extra protection for the population is also undertaken in the wild.
Stoats are the main predator of kiwi in the wild with only five percent of chicks surviving without some form of protection.
Beyond the kiwi sanctuary area, Operation Nest Egg (ONE) is used to boost the population of kiwi living outside the protected area, and to ensure genetic diversity is retained. This technique sees eggs removed from nesting birds to the West Coast Wildlife Centre where they are hatched safely in captivity.
Since first opening in late 2010 the West Coast Wildlife Centre has safely hatched 299 rowi kiwi chicks and 122 Haast tokoeka which have all been released back into the wild through the Department of Conservation.
This privately owned and funded facility was one of the very first public / private partnership set up between the Department of Conservation, Te Runanga o Makaawhio, and private enterprise -with the program continuing to bear extremely successful results supporting the Department of Conservations efforts to save these kiwi species.
“The team and I are incredibly proud of our partnership with The Department of Conservation and with iwi, and the significant conservation difference we are making as a community and as a private business “says owner Richard Benton.
“It is a real privilege to be able to partner up to help the world’s rarest of kiwi survive , while at the same time working with such a dedicated team of Department of Conservation staff in Franz Josef.” says Benton.
A passionate Kiwi Wildlife Centre Ranger team works full time on the hatching programme in Franz Josef led by Kiwi Husbandry Manager, Kim Revelly working with Katherine Morris -on a full-time basis - throughout the year.
“We are thrilled to have hatched our first rowi chick for the 2019/20 season! It is a privilege to able to come to work each day and partake in the incubating, hatching and rearing of our national icon. It is truly humbling. We could not do the work we do without our partnership with the Department of Conservation. The team here in South Westland do a fantastic job monitoring the rowi in the wild and we are truly grateful for their support.” says Kim.
Rowi eggs are removed from the forest for safe hatching because kiwi chicks are vulnerable to predation by introduced stoats. Eggs are hatched at the West Coast Wildlife Centre and then transferred to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve where they will remain for approximately two months.
The chick will then most likely head to one of the predator free islands at the top of the South Island before being released to the Omeoroa ranges in the Glacier region, where they will be less vulnerable to predation.
The West Coast Wildlife Centre is the South Island’s largest kiwi hatching facility and open to the general public from 8am daily.
Visitors can see the work firsthand on a Kiwi Backstage Pass Tour which operates four times daily.
It is the official hatching and rearing programme for the world’s two rarest kiwi – the rowi and Haast tokoeka – and has twice won the West Coast Leading Lights Awards and has been judged by Lonely Planet as one of its top 12 favorite new places to visit in New Zealand.
Here visitors can go “Behind The Scenes” to see for themselves the kiwi hatching and rearing facilities, meet the dedicated team of kiwi rangers, and see the world’s rarest kiwi’s up close in the nocturnal house and bush walkway.
Numerous businesses, local dedicated people and visitors to New Zealand have proudly supported the West Coast Wildlife Centre’s kiwi sponsorship program, which helps the West Coast Wildlife Centre to fund purchasing kiwi food, incubation and brooder room equipment, veterinary products and build new facilities.
“We really value the support we get for our hatching facility from the West Coast community and beyond” says Operations Manager Lisa Stevenson, and “we encourage any visitors to Franz Josef to drop in and see for themselves this really exciting kiwi facility on the West Coast.”