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Published: 2008-12-11 00:00:00

A $39,000 grant from Environment Waikato has given 13 kiwi chicks their best possible shot at survival this year.

The kiwi were taken from their nests as eggs, then successfully hatched and reared by the National Kiwi Trust under the Operation Nest Egg programme over the past 12 months.

Environment Waikato granted the money from its Environmental Initiatives Fund last December. 

The trust reared the kiwi chicks at its Kiwi Encounter breeding facilities at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua until they were about six months old (one kilogram) and big enough to defend themselves against stoats.

They were released into Maungatautari (near Cambridge), Tongariro National Park and the Coromandel area.

Reporting to Environment Waikato’s environment committee recently, National Kiwi Trust manager Claire Travers said kiwi raised under the Operation Nest Egg programme had a 60-70 per cent chance of surviving to adulthood, compared to only five per cent otherwise.

The trust cared for up to 80 chicks at a time, providing regular health checks and inoculations against disease before releasing them back into their natural habitat.

“We hatch and rear more than 120 chicks a season but I still stop and watch a hatch; it’s a miracle,” she said.

“If it wasn’t for assistance like yours we would struggle to do the numbers that we’re doing.”

Once returned to the wild, kiwi can live for more than 50 years and males can start breeding within 15 months.  Females take up to three years to start reproducing.

The National Kiwi Trust applied for funding from Environment Waikato last year because the breeding programme had become so successful Rainbow Springs could no longer cover the full costs of keeping it running.

“Environment Waikato continues to look for good outcomes in our region which have value for the ratepayer and we are thrilled this grant had such a successful result,” environment committee chair Jane Hennebry said.

“Environment Waikato is also helping to protect kiwi and increase native biodiversity by controlling pests in areas where kiwi live and breed.”

The National Kiwi Trust at Kiwi Encounter raised a total of 18 kiwi chicks that were released back into the Waikato region over the past year.