A rare rowi kiwi who had strayed far from her lowland forest home to a cliff face at 1250m in the snowy mountains of South Westland is now safe after DOC organised a Search and Rescue (SAR) Alpine Cliff Rescue (ACR) Team from Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR) to retrieve the bird.
The rowi, named “Aroha” was one of 27 juvenile rowi released last December into the area around Lake Gault, which is situated amid lowland forest on a terminal moraine near the township of Fox Glacier.
Biodiversity Ranger Iain Graham says, “We monitor the kiwi frequently and while some haven’t travelled far – a few hundred meters from their release point, one bird “Aroha” had travelled a long way. She’d gone from Lake Gault, out toward Gillespies on the coastline and then headed inland, across the State Highway and up into the mountains behind Fox Glacier township.
This was a distance of more than 12km, and at 1250m, more than double the elevation of any previously monitored rowi kiwi.
“This is a lowland kiwi we are talking about here – or so we thought.”
After two attempts to reach Aroha from her perch on the side of a cliff, DOC rangers called in the ACR Team, a group of highly trained volunteers who provide an alpine and cliff rescue service as part of LandSAR South Westland. The team of experienced mountaineers and rope rescue experts treated the mission to collect the lost kiwi as a training exercise. They worked in snowy and steep conditions to rescue Aroha, who was found trapped on a small ledge surrounded by bluffs, and undoubtedly would have died had she not been rescued.
Iain Graham says, “Aroha was relocated back to lowland forest, where there are more grubs and insects to feed on, and we expect her to regain the weight she has lost and get ready for her next adventure.”
The whereabouts of Aroha will continue to be monitored by rangers.