Kiwi emerges safely from NZ earthquake
13 Sep 2010
Little Richter - the first kiwi hatched in the 2010 season at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve - has proved that it takes a lot to crack a kiwi.
As the people of Christchurch and Canterbury got on with the huge job of clearing up damage from last week’s 7.1 earthquake, the little kiwi emerged unscathed from its shell in the Christchurch wildlife reserve.
After a shaky incubation during a week of rocking and rolling, Willowbank wildlife workers were hugely relieved to witness the little kiwi’s safe arrival yesterday.
New Zealand Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said the hatching was "one breakage that is a welcome relief after the recent quakes".
It was also timely because it coincided with the start of New Zealand’s annual Conservation Week.
Chick doing well
The new chick is doing really well, Willowbank Marketing Manager Jo Moore said today (13.09.2010).
"Richter is weighing in at a respectable 316 grams and is very mobile."
Apart from the new arrival, it was business at usual at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Moore said. The reserve on the outskirts of Christchurch had continued to operate normally since the earthquake - as had most of the tourism operators in Christchurch - Canterbury.
Kiwi eggs in incubation
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve - which works in conjunction with the BNZ Operation Nest Egg programme - had 17 kiwi eggs in incubation when the earthquake struck.
Immediately after being shaken out of bed by the September 4 earthquake, Corry-Ann Langford, manager of Willowbank's hatching facility, rushed into work to check on the kiwi eggs and ensure the generator was started.
"Although they had rolled around a bit, the incubator's ribbed, rubber matting had kept them safe," Langford said.
"We've increased the padding to protect them during the aftershocks and they seem to be continuing to develop fine. Fingers crossed, we've had no losses."
Iain Graham, Department of Conservation ranger for Operation Nest Egg, said Richter seemed unaffected by the vibrations of his egg.
"If it's shaken around too much there's a chance of the embryo dying. If the shells crack there's more chance of a bacterial infection developing."
Endangered kiwi populations
The Willowbank eggs come from the endangered rowi and Haast tokoeka kiwi populations in the South Island’s West Coast region.
Rowi, formerly known as Okarito brown kiwi, are New Zealand’s rarest kiwi. There are an estimated 350 surviving in the 11,000-hectare South Okarito Forest.
Like all rowi chicks born at Willowbank, Richter will be transferred to the safe creche island of Motuara in the Marlborough Sounds, before eventually rejoining his native population.
The little kiwi chick arrived on the day that New Zealand kicked off annual Conservation Week celebrations.
With more than 150 community events throughout the country, Conservation Week offers thousands of New Zealanders an opportunity to learn more about their natural heritage and to get involved in conservation.
Events include a family day at the zoo, tree planting, weed swaps and a working bee in a kiwi creche.
Background: Rowi kiwi
The rowi - also known as the Okarito brown kiwi - is New Zealand’s most endangered kiwi population.
While the only known remaining population of about 350 birds lives within the 11,000-hectare Okarito forest, the species was once abundant and widespread over much of the South Island’s West Coast region, and in the southern North Island.
Rowi chicks are vulnerable to introduced predators such as stoats which kill birds and eat their eggs.
Rowi kiwi can live for up to 100 years. The female lays a large egg that can be equal to up to 20% of body weight.
Only identified as an individual species in 1994, rowi differ from other kiwi in several ways. They are grey with white patches on their heads, and their feathers are softer than the coarse feathers of other kiwi species.
Background: BNZ Operation Nest Egg
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is part of the Bank of New Zealand -sponsored Operation Nest Egg programme, which was started in 1994 to save the endangered kiwi species.
Kiwi eggs are collected, incubated and hatched, and the chicks are reared in captivity until they are big enough to be released into the wild.
Birds raised this way have a 65% chance of surviving their first year of life.
Only 5% of kiwi hatched in the wild reach adulthood, and 20% survival is needed for a population to grow.
Operation Nest Egg has so far increased the chances of a kiwi making it to adulthood by seven times.
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