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Mother and son reunion marks special conservation milestone

Published: Tue 7 Apr 2015 08:57 AM
7 April 2015
Mother and son reunion marks special conservation milestone
One ‘Kiwi chick’ flies home from Oz to return another kiwi chick to the forest
An emotional surprise Kiwi family reunion marked the return last week of a very special kiwi chick to the inland Hawke’s Bay forest from where its egg was taken. The 200th kiwi chick reared by the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust and its conservation partners was returned to the bush by Aucklander Lynda Holswich who was reunited with her own ‘fledgling’ at the event.
Her son Aaron was flown home secretly from Australia to be with his mother for the release. Video of the reunion can be seen here.
The male bird, named Tanekaha (Strong Man), was incubated at Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua and reared in a predator-free area at the Cape Sanctuary south of Napier.
To mark the occasion the Trust’s primary sponsor, Auckland-based Tasti Products, ran a Facebook competition asking followers with children overseas to suggest names for the bird in honour of their offshore offspring.
Ms Holswich said she involved a close colleague, with recently-diagnosed Hodgkin’s lymphoma, to help with the naming of the kiwi and decided on the name Tanekaha, which could also be applied to her sons.
Tasti secretly got in touch with Aaron and arranged to fly him home to be reunited with his mother at the Trust’s property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest in Hawke’s Bay. Ms Holswich said the reunion was emotional.
“The last thing I expected was to see my son when the helicopter landed at Maungataniwha – I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or run away,” she said. “It turned a special event into something absolutely amazing and meaningful for me. It’s a day Aaron and I will remember for the rest of our lives.”
Chairman of the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust Simon Hall said there had been an obvious connection between Ms Holswich and the kiwi.
“He was calm and still with her and in no hurry to burrow into the nest we had prepared for him.”
The Maungataniwha Kiwi Project is part of Kiwi for kiwis’ Operation Nest Egg and is fast carving out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country. Since its inception in 2006 it has harvested about 360 eggs and seen 200 chicks released back into the wild, about 160 of which have been released back into the Maungataniwha Native Forest.
Fully-fledged chicks released back into the forest as part of the project have an approximately 70 percent chance of survival. This survival rate contrasts starkly with the five percent chance that kiwi have of making it to adulthood if hatched in the bush and left unprotected against predators.
Population modelling suggests around 200 kiwi needed to be released back into Maungataniwha to make the population there secure for the next 30 years.
“It’s wonderful to be making big strides towards this milestone. We’re absolutely delighted with the project’s success to date and plan to keep on going,” Mr Hall said.
Eggs are taken from the Trust’s property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest adjacent to Te Urewera National Park and sent to Kiwi Encounter for incubation. The resulting chicks are then reared at the Cape Sanctuary until they are large enough to defend themselves against predators, before being returned to the wild at Maungataniwha.
In February 2012 Trust patron Rachel Hunter released Takamoana, the 100th chick reared by the project.
In addition to the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project the Trust runs a series of native flora and fauna regeneration projects. These include a drive to increase the wild-grown population of Kakabeak (Clianthus maximus), an extremely rare type of shrub, and the re-establishment of native plants and forest on 4,000 hectares currently, or until recently, under pine.
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About the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust
The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust was established in 2006 to provide direction and funding for the restoration of threatened species of fauna and flora, and to restore the ngahere mauri (forest lifeforce) in native forests within the Central North Island.It runs eight main regeneration and restoration projects, involving native New Zealand flora and fauna, on three properties in the central North Island. It also owns a property in the South Island’s Fiordland National Park.
About Kiwis for kiwiTM
Kiwis for kiwiTM is a national charity that raises and distributes funds to kiwi conservation projects across New Zealand. Established in October 2012, it continues more than two decades of work by BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust to help protect kiwi and the places they live.
Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust is one of 90 community-led conservation projects that Kiwis for kiwi helps to support.
Our national icon – the kiwi – is under siege from stoats, dogs, cats, rats and loss of habitat. Just one hundred years ago, there were more than a million kiwi roaming throughout New Zealand. Today there are less than 70,000. Without urgent action, kiwi numbers will continue to fall with the risk that they will disappear in the wild.
BNZ Operation Nest EggTM is a powerful tool to reverse the decline of kiwi populations. Eggs and chicks are harvested from nests to save them from stoats and cats. The young kiwi are returned to the wild when they weight about 1kg, big enough to fight off these predators. More than 2000 kiwi chicks have been returned to the wild nationally since its inception in 1994, with captive facilities and hundreds of field workers from DOC and community groups throughout the country contributing to its success

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