International attention for kiwi recovery efforts

Two species of kiwi are on the road to recovery after years of coordinated work to save them, and our other kiwi species would benefit from a similar level of resourcing.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has highlighted the rowi (also known as okarito kiwi) and brown kiwi as international success stories.  

The IUCN is up-grading the status of rowi and brown kiwi from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’.

“This means instead of being in serious trouble, these two types of kiwi are no longer at such a high risk of extinction” says Forest & Bird Chief Conservation Officer Kevin Hackwell.

“It’s great to have international recognition for all the hard work throughout the country helping these species to recover.”

Rowi have increased from only 160 individuals in 1995 to 450 adults today, and managed brown kiwi populations are growing by over 2% per annum, although unmanaged populations continue to decline.

The success is the result of thirty years of coordinated efforts from the government, tangata whenua, and community groups including Forest & Bird.

“The Kiwi Recovery Group has been an incredibly successful and productive model for saving a species. We hope it continues.”

“Other kiwi like the great spotted and some tokoeka species are still in serious trouble,” says Mr Hackwell.

When recovery efforts began, many kiwi were being killed by predators in the nest or as chicks.

Conservationists began by rescuing eggs from the forest, to release after they hatched and fledged safely, in a programme called Operation Nest Egg.

“Operation Nest Egg has been an enormous effort. It helped to increase juvenile survival while we developed effective landscape-scale pest control techniques,” says Mr Hackwell.

Much of the technology and methods developed to save kiwi are now applied to other native species in trouble.

While two species are getting attention for doing well, other kiwi like the great spotted kiwi/roroa and tokoeka, that live in the South Island, are still in decline.

“Predators continue to be the biggest threat to kiwi survival, which is why the latest Kiwi Recovery Plan is seeking a significant increase in large scale pest control efforts to save all of our kiwi species.”

“Now that kiwi recovery has proven to be so successful, we need to commit the necessary resources to make it happen elsewhere.”

BirdLife International is the authority on birds for the IUCN. Forest & Bird is a partner of BirdLife International.