Kiwis to make their comeback in New Zealand's capital after more than a century

A kiwi chick hatches at the National Kiwi Hatchery at Rainbow Springs, Rotorua, New Zealand, on Oct 31, 2018.
A kiwi chick hatches at the National Kiwi Hatchery at Rainbow Springs, Rotorua, New Zealand, on Oct 31, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

They have been absent from New Zealand's capital for more than a century, but perhaps not for much longer.

An ambitious conservation project has been launched to reintroduce the country's national bird, the kiwi, to Wellington within the next decade. Kiwis are only found in New Zealand.

To bring kiwis back into Wellington, the Capital Kiwi initiative plans to set about 4,400 traps across 23,000ha of public and private land surrounding the capital to reduce the birds' predators.

The "safe area" where the traps will be set up is between the Miramar Peninsula in Wellington and Porirua Harbour, located north of the capital.

These traps target the kiwis' predators - such as stoats, weasels and ferrets - in a bid to make the area more conducive to the flightless bird's survival.

There are only around 68,000 kiwis left in the world, and the kiwi population is declining at 2 per cent per year, The Guardian reported on Monday (Nov 12). The shrinking kiwi population is largely due to predators such as dogs, cats and possums attacking the birds.

Capital Kiwi's project lead Paul Ward told New Zealand newspaper NZ Herald that laying traps for kiwi predators is the best way to reintroduce the nocturnal bird into urban areas.

In the wild, only 4 to 5 per cent of kiwi chicks survive till adulthood, while the survival rate increases to 20 per cent in controlled areas, he added.

Similar community-driven predator control methods have already delivered results in other parts of the country.

In 2006, the Remutaka Forest Park Trust reintroduced a dozen brown kiwis into a 1000ha area north of Wellington. Currently, it has a population of more than 130 kiwis, New Zealand news website Stuff.co.nz reported.