Kaha makes it to Motutapu thanks to Sue & Greg

Volunteers are a huge part of non- profit organisations such as Moehau Environment Group, in fact without them there would simply not be a group. Throughout the summer program we work to engage and share conservation efforts and the work that our volunteers do.

This is the story of local Port Charles volunteer Sue Bedwell’s experience who played the role of kiwi escort to kiwi chick whos new home is now Motutapu Island as part of Operation Nest Egg (ONE). ONE is being carried out to establish a founding population of Coromandel brown kiwi should anything untoward  happened to kiwi on the Coromandel or main land to ensure a population base for the future that is nurtured in a safe environment.

Most kiwi chicks don’t survive in the wild due to predators such as stoats unless there is intensive predator control. MEG volunteers currently check over 1132 stoat traps monthly. We monitor male kiwi and when they have established incubation of eggs in the field, the eggs are lifted from the burrows and brought to Rainbow springs partially incubated. The incubation is completed artificially (kiwi eggs take approximately 78 days to incubate in artificial conditions, slightly longer when in the wild) and raise the chicks to 1kg in weight. They are then returned to the wild when they are able to defend themselves. Heres Sue’s story;

When we first met “our” anonymous kiwi chick it was a tiny ball of brown feathers tucked into the corner of a transportation box.  The only thing that conclusively identified it as a kiwi was its long narrow beak.

The fact sheet told us that our special passenger weighed 265gm but it had no name because its sex would only be known after a DNA test was completed.

The eight-week-old kiwi began its trip that day when Diane Prince picked it up from Rotorua and met my partner Greg and I just north of Thames on the road to Auckland.  Diane gave us our first peek at that ball of feathers before its transportation box was secured on the back seat of our car.

The kiwi’s journey to its permanent home on Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf began earlier this year when its egg was taken from the hills behind Port Charles and delivered to the Rotorua kiwi hatchery.   It was a journey that ended after rides in three vehicles and a boat trip from Halfmoon Bay to the island.

On the Department of Conservation boat we met the other people lucky enough to be part of the kiwi escort.  Aside from the Iwi representative James, who called Greg and I the little bird’s uber drivers, we were joined by two pupils and their teacher from MacLeans College in Auckland.

We got down to the serious business of naming our kiwi.  The pupils belonged to the college’s Kupe House which supports the Kiwis for Kiwi Trust.  One of the key characteristics fostered by the house is strength so we decided to call our kiwi “Kaha Rawa” meaning very strong or almighty in Maori.

On Motutapu, James welcomed Kaha to the island with a powhiri.  We also met DOC staff member Hazel who drove Kaha and its escort to Motutapu’s bush block and showed us where Kaha would start a new life.

We finally got a close look at Kaha when Hazel took it from the transportation box.  After a brief struggle, the perfect kiwi nestled into Hazel’s jacket with its eyes closed

The shelter built by Hazel was designed to allow Kaha time to settle down after its long journey but also allow Kaha to easily escape into the bush proper should it wish to do so.

We were warned that sometimes the kiwi “broke out” of the shelter immediately.  If this happened we were to “make like a tree” and not interfere. Kaha chose to stay put.

As we turned to leave, I couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for the poor thing. That morning Kaha had left the only home it had known.  Just six hours later it is alone on a mysterious island with about 40 unknown other kiwi.

Delivering Kaha to its new home was an incredible experience.  The whole day was magical; from the anticipation driving down the Thames coast to leaving the island knowing that Kaha was as safe as possible in its new predator-free home.

I started smiling from the moment I first learned Greg and I would deliver this precious chick to Motutapu until well after we had arrived home.  Not even Auckland traffic jams on the way home could wipe the smile from my face.

Thanks to Sue & Greg for taking Kaha to Motutapu Island.