SOSSI mourns loss of ‘signific kiwi

Shakespear Open Sanctuary has lost one of its Little Spotted Kiwi with a female bird, named Matariki, found dead recently.

Matariki was one of the original birds brought from Kapiti to Tiritiri Matangi Island to start the population there in 1996. She would already have been an adult at the time, which makes her at least 23 years old when she died. This species can live around 30 years or more.

The dead kiwi was found in June by open sanctuaries senior ranger Matt Maitland at the bottom of cliffs on the eastern coast of Army Bay, wedged between rocks.

Matt says that the first sign something was wrong was when the transmitter fitted to the bird’s leg gave rapid beeps – known as the ‘mortality signal’. This occurs when a bird hasn’t moved for 24 hours.

Matt followed the transmitter’s signal to locate the bird. He says there were no signs of predation, such as wounds, on her body. The kiwi’s body was sent to Massey University for an autopsy by a veterinary pathologist, who could not find any indications of poisoning, illness or other physical problems that could have led to the bird’s demise.

However, Matt says the most likely scenario based on how she was found is that she was exploring her new environment and fell down the cliff.

He says Matariki was a matriarch of the population and very significant in the eyes of all those involved with release of kiwi at the sanctuary. Her feathers will be offered to local iwi for use in cloaks.

Twenty birds from Kapiti and Tiritiri Matangi Islands were released into the sanctuary at the end of Whangaparaoa Peninsula in April. Conservationists hope that the release could be a major boost for the population of this, our smallest and second most rare kiwi.

However, Matt says it is a process fraught with difficulties.

“We acknowledge that removing birds from their habitat and relocating them is a high risk/high reward undertaking,” Matt says. “Although it’s very sad for all of us, Matariki’s death has not put us off bringing in another 20 kiwi next year.”

He says the remaining birds are in good condition and settling in well, establishing territories. “We have a pinboard map which shows where the birds are and there are lovely groupings of blue and white pins, indicating males and females, showing that the birds are pairing up,” Matt says.

The main breeding season runs across winter and spring, making it possible that the next generation of Kiwi could be born at Shakespear early next year.


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