Eight young kiwi were recently released into Orokonui Ecosanctuary and appear to be checking out their new home in the wildlife haven and settling in.
The kiwi, all from the critically endangered Haast tokoeka variety of South Westland, were released into makeshift burrows at several locations in the Ecosanctuary with transmitters attached to their legs. The translocation involved the Department of Conservation and two runanga – Makaawhio from South Westland, who are the cultural guardians of tokoeka, and the local people, Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki, of Karitane.
Orokonui Ecosanctuary's conservation manager, has been monitoring the kiwi after dark and it appears that some of them have begun moving around the forest. Calls have been heard and one of the kiwi has already been seen on a walking track. For many decades now the kiwi’s call has been a shrill cry for help and now Dunedin is coming to the aid of our national bird through offering a safe breeding area at Orokonui.
These first eight kiwi have the length of a 2 km-long forested valley in which to make their home – that’s plenty of room.
Orokonui Ecosanctuary envisage night excursions for the public after the settling-in period, and what a novel experience it will be for Dunedin people and visitors to be able to hear kiwi calls. It’s astonishing to think that our national bird – and the rarest kind at that – has returned to the wild in the Dunedin area after an absence of over 130 years.