Conservation staff are hunting a stoat that has breached a native wildlife sanctuary's $2 million fence.
The Orokonui Ecosanctuary near Dunedin is home to several species of native birds, insects, and tuatara.
The centre's conservation manager, Elton Smith, said a ranger spotted the stoat's footprints in the snow last week.
"Experts confirmed the worst case scenario that it was in fact a stoat," he said.
Yesterday, staff, volunteers and the Department of Conservation removed 12 juvenile kiwi.
"It was not worth the risk of keeping them in here in the presence of a stoat," said Mr Smith.
Those kiwi would be released on pest-free islands in Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri.
Although staff could not be certain how the breach had occurred, he said they thought there was only one stoat in the ecosanctuary.
They would normally use traps to catch the stoat, but in this case were prepared to do anything.
"Worst case scenario, like on Maud Island in the '80s, we sit outside playing saddleback calls for 48 hours with a shotgun and try to shoot it," he said.
Mr Smith said they were also using a dog to hunt out the stoat.
Maud Island is a predator-free scientific reserve in the Marlborough Sounds