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Kiwi fighting strong at Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow

The adverse weather that impacted many regions in February made itself known at the Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow but thankfully all kiwi were accounted for. And elsewhere, Save the Kiwi has started removing kiwi from Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, ready for their future in the wild.

The Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow is situated within the Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary near Taupō. Like much of the North Island, Cyclone Gabrielle impacted the area in late February.

“At the actual incubation facility itself, there was some tree-fall onto the building but nothing that caused damage,” confirms Save the Kiwi Executive Director Michelle Impey. “There was no risk to the eggs and chicks inside so it was business as usual from that perspective.”

Within the predator-free sanctuary though, it was a different story. A number of trees came down onto the 5km-long perimeter fence. In total, there were an estimated 1,500 trees around the sanctuary that were uprooted or in need of felling. Thankfully contractors were able to start repairing the fence almost immediately.

Trees down at the Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow

Trees down within the Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary

For over a decade the sanctuary has been used to nurture young kiwi chicks until they reach one-kilo in weight “which is when they’re safe to go into the world and fend for themselves,” Michelle says. The 13 chicks within the sanctuary at the time were all accounted for and swiftly relocated. Those large enough were released to the wild, while those that needed more time to grow to a safe weight were moved to predator-free Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari in Waikato.

two guys at the kiwi burrow

Quick work helped recover kiwi and manage pests seeking shelter

Rebuilding the safety net

The Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow, along with all Save the Kiwi sanctuaries, are as prepared as they can be for the unknown.

In this case, the organisation fell back on proven detection methods. These include pest traps, trail cameras that are triggered by animal movement to take photos or video, and tracking tunnels that use ink to manually identify predators from their footprints.

Since traps were put in place as soon as the fences were repaired, staff have caught two weasels and four rats. Soon, a predator-tracking dog will come through as a final measure to sniff out anything that may still be within the sanctuary.

“But we’re feeling pretty confident that it’ll be in a state ready to receive kiwi again,” Michelle says. “Because for the most part the weather was pretty extreme, so it’s logical many of those pest species also were in shelter during the worst of the storm.”

A bright future

Michelle says that the last chick for the season hatched at the Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow over the Easter long weekend, taking this year's total to 58. That number is expected to be 80 to 100 chicks next year.

Save the Kiwi has just started removing kiwi from Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, which is where most chicks hatched at the Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow are released to help grow a breeding population. In time the sanctuary will get close to capacity so young kiwi will be removed each year to create new populations in the wild, restoring the kiwi population around Aotearoa. This year, around 100 kiwi are planned to be rehomed and that number will grow each year.

“This is the big piece of work that’s really going to accelerate the growth of the wild kiwi population that the Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow has been so instrumental in helping to facilitate” - Michelle Impey, Save the Kiwi Executive Director 

“It’s a really exciting programme that’s making a demonstrable difference over a short period of time.” Michelle says.

While it’s obvious why each egg counts, Save the Kiwi has always had a master plan.

“We think they’ll live 50 to 60 years,” she says of kiwi. “We can comfortably say that a pair of kiwi will have two to three chicks in a predator-free environment every year, so you start to multiply that out, that’s a really big impact.”

Published June 2023