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History of Whakatane Kiwi Trust
In 2000 the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (BOPRC), in consultation with Te Runanga o Ngati Awa, initiated work to assist the survival of a small North Island Brown Kiwi population found in the Ohope Scenic Reserve. Somehow four pair of adult kiwi had hung on in the reserve without any pest control. All chicks were, however, being killed by predators.Over the next four years a pest control project was established in Ohope Scenic Reserve, Kohi Point Scenic Reserve and Mokorua Bush Scenic Reserve and on the Ngati Awa Farm Kawenata (Covenant) with DOC operational and BOPRC EEF and operational funding. The Whakatane District Council joined the project partnership in 2002 and commenced a pest control programme in the two council reserves, utilising EEF funding.
Initially kiwi eggs were removed from nests in Ohope Scenic Reserve to be hatched and reared at Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua. The reared chicks were returned to the Whakatane reserves once they reached predator ‘safe’ weight of 1000 grams. By 2005 the resident population of kiwi had grown to 17 birds, and eight chicks had been released on pest free Moutohora to establish a ‘back up’ population.
In 2011 the Whakatane Kiwi Project moved to ‘insitu’ management of chicks. This means that eggs are left in nests to be incubated and hatched. On-going pest control has created a safer environment in which kiwi chicks can mature in the wild.At Easter 2013 the 200th kiwi chick was celebrated. It is estimated that the wild kiwi population in the Whakatane area is now around 300 birds, and reports of kiwi living outside the project area are increasing.Since 2012 the Whakatane Kiwi Trust has been moving its focus toward wider biodiversity management. As the project has progressed other bird species are benefitting from the pest control programme. The numbers of locally occurring bird species are increasing, as well as other animals including skinks and geckos, and native insects such as weta. The health of the forest in the reserves is also improving. As the management of animal pests is now a routine operation, the focus can begin to shift more toward the management of plant pest species.A key function of the Trust is to encourage community engagement with the Whakatane Kiwi Project. The Trust has prepared a Strategic Plan for 2013-17 with a strong focus on biodiversity education and advocacy. Quick project facts:
Bait station line length in the project area: 158 km.
Area under treatment: 1087 hectares.
Weight of toxin delivered annually to control rats and possums: 1112 kg.
Number of possums caught in the project area in 2013: 0.
Length of trap network maintained by volunteers: 440 traps over approximately 66 km.
Volunteer trapping data for 2012/13: 52 stoats, 1 ferret, 14 weasels, and 335 hedgehogs.
Number of feral cats caught in the project area during 2012/13: approximately 40.
Cost of annual pest control operation: approximately $100,000.
Number of kiwi chicks released/raised since 2000: 196, (plus an unknown number of chicks have hatched and grown in the project area without contact).
Number of active volunteers working on project tasks: approximately 50.