Queenstown kiwi go into wild in Whirinaki

The North Island brown kiwi were released on 24 June into the area surrounding Central Whirinaki Hut.

Earlier, a pōwhiri by kaitiaki Ngāti Whare and students from the region was held at Waikotikoti Marae.

The release ended an epic journey for the birds which had been in a display house at the Kiwi Bird Park in Queenstown. To allow them to be set free, they had first to be transported to Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua where they spent the next 12 days adjusting their body clocks to a natural day/night cycle.

The translocation was part of the national captive breeding programme, which was initiated to maintain a healthy, genetically-diverse population across all sites in Aotearoa.

In cases where captive bred kiwi become genetically over-represented within the captive population, some are released back into the wild. In this way they add genetic diversity to the existing wild populations or can establish a kiwi population where they have previously become extinct.

Ngāti Whare kaumatua Kohiti Kohiti says the iwi supports programmes to release kiwi into Whirinaki Te Pua a Tāne.

“The Kiwi is a taonga of our ancestors and was treated as a special bird in our ngahere. It was never thought of as a food resource to be eaten but more as a resource for clothing purposes. It is wonderful to hear our native birds singing and chattering away in the ngahere,” Kohiti Kohiti, says.

The two kiwi will join a wild population in Whirinaki Te Pua a Tāne which is best known for its awe-inspiring stands of rimu, tōtara, kahikatea, mataī and miro. As well as kiwi, it is also home to endangered species including, whio, kokako and both long-tailed and short-tailed bats(pekapeka). Ngāti Whare are active kaitiaki of Whirinaki Te Pua a Tāne, working with DOC to protect natural, cultural, and historic resources for the benefit and well-being of future generations of Aotearoa/New Zealand and visitors.

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