BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust has pledged $75,000 per annum over three years to support the Department of Conservation’s ground-breaking work to increase rowi numbers.
Once widespread over much of the West Coast and the southeast coast of the North Island, today’s estimates are that just 375 rowi remain, most of them within Okarito Kiwi Zone.
The Rowi Project, sponsored by BNZ Save the Kiwi, plans to change that. It is introducing management options that aim to double the population over a 10-year period to 2018 and secure the species’ future in the long-term.
In particular, the Rowi Project is combining four innovative management techniques – BNZ Operation Nest Egg™ and the Egg Timer™, Chick Timer™ and Sky Ranger monitoring systems.
You can check out two informative video segments about rowi that appeared as part of the TV 6 "Meet the Locals" television show. One covers general information about rowi: "Rarest Kiwi", and the other covers the technology being utilised to help save rowi: "Wild Tech".
The Rowi Project techniques
BNZ Operation Nest Egg™ has been used at Okarito since 2002 and helped achieve a 25% increase in rowi numbers over six years. Eggs and wild-born chicks are cared for at captive management facilities; Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch and the West Coast Wildlife Centre in Franz Josef, before being transferred to Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds. Motuara is a predator-free island where chicks can grow-up safely until large enough to better defend themselves against their number one predator—the stoat.
Boosting BNZ Operation Nest Egg’s™ effectiveness even further are three new monitoring techniques developed by Wildtech NZ Ltd—the Egg Timer, Chick Timer and Sky Ranger. Used together, these tools not only improve the chick’s chances of survival, they save Department of Conservation kiwi workers up to 45 days in the field.
The timers are attached to an adult kiwi’s leg and transmit electronic beeps that allow the bird’s movements to be monitored. Kiwi workers now know exactly where to find rowi, and, by interpreting the pattern of beeps, know when an egg has been laid, how long it has been incubated and when it will hatch.
Sky Ranger is the latest innovation allowing signals from the transmitters to be picked up from the air. A fixed-wing aircraft flies in a grid-pattern over the sanctuary, picking up data simply and effectively. In one 45-minute trial, the receiver downloaded information from more than 70 rowi resting in burrows 1200 metres below—it would have taken five kiwi workers three weeks to gather the same information.
Sky Ranger enables more eggs to be monitored and lifted to safety as part of BNZ Operation Nest Egg™. A world first, it has potential to bring about positive results for conservation on a global scale. Closer to home, it will also be used to monitor another critically endangered kiwi—the Haast tokoeka.
You can check out 2 video segments that have been made about rowi that were part of the TV 6 "Meet the Locals" television show. One covers general information about rowi: "Rarest Kiwi", and the other covers the technology being utilised to help save the rowi: "Wild Tech".
Just how kiwi got to New Zealand remains a mystery. Were they already around when New Zealand broke away from Antarctica and Australia millions of years ago? Did they walk here, using long-gone islands as stepping-stones? Or could they once fly?