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Published: 2007-10-02 00:00:00

A “missing” mating pair of Western North Island Brown kiwi has been successfully located and fitted with radio transmitters as part of a project aimed at helping the critically endangered and iconic birds survive in the wild.

And, during the expedition to find the two kiwi late last week, calls from a third bird were heard, raising hopes that another male kiwi is in the area.

Last week’s kiwi location at the remote Paparahia Station was undertaken by Otorohanga Zoological Society volunteers as part of the King Country Kiwi Survey project, which has received a $5000 grant from Environment Waikato for its work across the region.

The society aims to locate all Western North Island Brown kiwi remaining in the wild in the King Country, fit them with transmitters, and then either support them in the wild or transfer them to managed predator-free sites such as Maungatautari.

The male of the Paparahia pair had previously been fitted with a transmitter but lost it last year, and attempts to locate the birds since then had been frustratingly unsuccessful.

Society president and survey coordinator Nancy Jensen said it was very satisfying to have located the birds last week.

The volunteers and specialist dog handler James Fraser, using certified kiwi dog Percy, tracked them down. The transmitters will allow the society to monitor the male and female pair far more easily.

“If the decision is made that, for their own safety, they need to be removed to a predator-free, predator-managed site, then it’s easy to locate them,” said Mrs Jensen.

She was particularly pleased that some of the search team had heard another male in the area, as the current pair had not been producing fertile eggs.

“The fact that we’ve found another male probably presents us with a very strong case to remove the male that we have put the transmitter on…to another site to allow the female to pair up with that other male, and maybe we will get some fertile eggs,” said Mrs Jensen.

Environment Waikato’s natural heritage programme manager Kevin Collins said helping to save Western North Island Brown kiwi from extinction in the King Country was one of the council’s most concrete contributions to biodiversity protection.

“The long-term vision is that once birds at Maungatautari start to breed there will be surplus juvenile birds that can be released to other sites within the region.”