Fifteen of the world’s rarest kiwi species, the rowi, will be returned home to Ōkārito on the South Island’s West Coast today (Thursday, 17 November).
The Department of Conservation removed the 15 rowi eggs from the Ōkārito forest to protect them from predators – stoats and other introduced pests as part of BNZ Operation Nest Egg. The kiwi were hatched at both the West Coast Wildlife Centre in Franz Josef and Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch and have been raised to maturity on predator-free Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds.
Thanks to conservation efforts led by DOC and the BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust, rowi numbers have slowly been increasing from a low of fewer than 200 birds in 2007.The 15 birds being released on Thursday will boost the wild population to 380.
BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust executive director, Michelle Impey says saving the critically endangered rowi has been a priority for all those working and donating their time and money to the organisation.
“At one point it looked like the rowi decline was a tragedy in the making. It’s been a fantastic relief to see BNZ Operation Nest Egg in action; this tool has been vital in bringing the population quickly back to a point where the species has a future.”
The Franz Josef Waiau communities have taken a keen interest in their kiwi neighbours. DOC’s Community Relations Manager, Cornelia Vervoorn has been working closely with schools in the area. “Since last year’s release of rowi into north Ōkārito forest, some Whataroa students now live close enough to hear the kiwi calling at night – for the first time in living memory.”
Scenic Hotel Group has recently come on board to help BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust support the Rowi Project. Te Waonui Forest Retreat in Franz Josef began an “Adopt a Kiwi” initiative a few weeks ago and has already proven a great success.
West Coast Regional Manager for Scenic Hotel Group, Richard De Graaf says the initiative is well supported throughout the group. “It’s very much a win-win situation. We have cute little stuffed kiwis for our guests to ‘adopt’ during their visit, and all proceeds that go to BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust are earmarked to save the world’s rarest kiwi.
“The response from guests at Te Waonui was overwhelming. As the only 100% New Zealand owned hotel chain in the country, we take our responsibility to the environment very seriously.”
You can follow the Rowi Project via the blog on the BNZ Save the Kiwi website.