What's On at Zealandia


Bringing the birds back to town
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary

Bringing the birds back to town

In late 2023 kiwi chicks hatched in the wild west of Wellington for the first time in 150 years. These are the first chicks produced from a recently- established population of adult kiwi on the scrub-covered hills to the south and west of our Capital city.  
The return of our icon and taonga is the result of epic collective effort from locals, iwi, and landowners. This network of guardianship has enabled a grid of 4,600 mustelid traps to be deployed from Pariwhero (Red Rocks) to Porirua. At 24,000 hectares, it’s an area bigger than Abel Tasman National Park. 

This trap network is the key to the project. In the wild with no pest control up to 100% of chicks will be killed before they reach the one kilogram weight at which they can defend themselves from stoats – the number one threat to kiwi chicks. 

Across the Capital Kiwi Project area, over 1,000 stoats have been removed from the project area and we’ve consistently hit the monitoring targets to enable kiwi to return. 
Sixty-three kiwi have been translocated into the landscape (released on to Terāwhiti Station in November 2022 and May 2023). While it’s early days, the signs are promising: birds are pairing up, putting on weight, setting up territories and breeding. At least 50 more kiwi will follow shortly, from March 2024. 
Kiwi are tough and adaptable animals. An adult brown kiwi can fend off most all-comers with its big claws, with the exception of ferrets and roaming dogs. Ferrets, (the largest introduced mustelid) are not present in the project area, and if they do arrive, they have the largest ferret trap network in the country awaiting them. 
Uncontrolled dogs are an issue for adult kiwi. A single bite can be fatal. There are many areas in the project zone where core defendable populations of wild kiwi will be established safe from uncontrolled dogs.  
The south-west core of The Capital Kiwi Project involves 11,000 hectares of largely privately-owned land. The only dogs on the bulk of this land are working farm dogs, all of which are under strict control and have undergone Kiwi Avoidance Training. 

Avoidance Training opportunities have also been provided to all dog owners in Mākara, surrounding the Terawhiti Station release site. This has been embraced by the community, with 130 dogs put through KAT (Kiwi Aversion Training) since kiwi return. We need to be clear that KAT does not remove the need for dogs to be controlled, and on leads where that is required. 
Over time, as the kiwi establish and disperse towards the Outer Green Belt fringing Wellington’s southern and western suburbs, there will be an increasing need for the dog-owning community to step up as kiwi guardians: 
• observing on-lead by-laws that already exist in public reserves, from Mākara Peak and along the Skyline (where kiwi are already being encountered) to Ōtari; 
• ensuring dogs are in at night; 
• reporting lost and roaming dogs ASAP (call WCC on 04 499 4444). 
There are inspiring precedents elsewhere in New Zealand where this behaviour change has occurred, including over the harbour in the Remutaka Forest Park. From an initial translocation of a dozen kiwi a decade or so ago, community buy-in from pig hunters and domestic dog owners has helped deliver a population of over 150 wild kiwi. Residents of Sunny Grove, Wainuiomata, now proudly go to sleep at night hearing kiwi calling.  
Wellington is quietly achieving international status for bringing the birds back to town. Thanks to city-wide effort – Zealandia, Predator Free Wellington, Capital Kiwi (and all the predator free mahi) – we’ve welcomed back kākā, kererū, kārearea, and kororā, and are getting to grips with what looking after them in the wild requires. 

Now a very special K joins that resurgence.  We’re only at the beginning of that journey but the vision is a natural capital – wild Wellington – where people, pets, and our manu taonga thrive alongside each other.  
Sign up to be notified of aversion training sessions for your doggo if you live in Mākara or Ōhariu valley, or flick a message to info@capitalkiwi.co.nz if you’re keen to contribute to kiwi awareness in the western suburbs. 

Photo: Rawiri Walsh, Kaimanaaki Kiwi for the project captured by Sara Tansy for the Capital Kiwi Project. 

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