20 Nov 2016

Playing match-maker for rare Kiwi

6:25 am on 20 November 2016

A plan to reintroduce the Little Spotted Kiwi to Auckland needs extra funding to ensure the project's success.

The Little Spotted Kiwi is the second rarest of the kiwi species. The total population is about 1500, most of which are on Kāpiti island.

A little spotted kiwi (photo provided by Wellington's Zealandia)

Photo: Tom Lynch

The Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society is fundraising to bring the kiwi back to a nature reserve at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula.

Auckland Council senior ranger Matt Maitland works with the society to bring 20 birds to Shakespear Regional Park next year.

Half the birds will come from Tiritiri Matangi island, which is just 6km from Shakespear, with the other 10 coming from Kāpiti Island.

Creating a population in a new location was an expensive and complicated process, he said.

"Isolated groups of birds would normally mix and mingle with each other by moving around. In the case of kiwi, they have to walk over land."

"The fact that our birds are stuck on offshore islands means they cannot join up with each other.

"We have to facilitate that by moving birds around," he said.

Specialist dog handlers found the birds to move them. They were fitted with radio transmitters to track their movement in their new environment.

"This trans-location is going to cost about $60,000 over a couple of years," Mr Maitland said.

The project would help ensure the future health of the Little Spotted Kiwi with more genetic diversity.

With more land at the sanctuary available for the kiwi to live in and move around safely, Mr Maitland hoped the population at Shakespear Park could grow.

If the society raised about two-thirds or three-quarters of the $60,000 target by February, it could move the first set of birds next April.

"Come autumn of next year we would expect to be starting our founder population at Shakespear."

"If we're really lucky, they'll start breeding that winter."

More than half of the $60,000 for the project has been raised, but more is needed to complete the two-year project.

A Givealittle page has been set up.