Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildlife Sanctuary at the head of Picton harbour became the newest crèche for endangered rowi kiwi today. The Department of Conservation, Kaipupu Point Mainland Island Society, Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio and Te Ātiawa invited the public to join the celebration and blessing ceremony which was held at Waikawa Marae and provided a great opportunity to see the young rowi chicks.
Two four-month-old rowi were part of the blessing ceremony and afterwards were released onto Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildlife Sanctuary. A total of nine juvenile rowi are the first to be sheltered at the sanctuary.
Predator-free Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds has been the main crèche location for juvenile rowi kiwi until this point.
DOC South Westland Operations Manager Jo Macpherson says more space is needed for juvenile rowi due to the success of the DOC and Kiwis for kiwi rowi programme in increasing the numbers of New Zealand’s rarest kiwi from below 200 to more than 400.
“An increasing number of rowi are being hatched from eggs collected in Ōkarito Forest and Motuara can’t accommodate them all.”
“We are capping the number of juvenile rowi on Motuara at 50 birds to ensure they can all get enough food to eat which for kiwi includes insects, grubs, and worms. Having another crèche site at the Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildlife Sanctuary also provides insurance should anything such as disease threaten the kiwi on Motuara.”
Kaipupu Point Mainland Island Society Chairman Barry Maister said to become a rowi crèche was a significant milestone for the Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildlife Sanctuary.
“This is incredibly exciting and a testament to the many thousands of volunteer hours trapping and pest monitoring on the sanctuary over the last 11 years. From day one of the project we have looked forward to the time we could welcome kiwi onto Kaipupu Point.
“Our ongoing commitment to predator control means we can offer a safe crèche scenario for juvenile rowi.”
Through the Kiwis for kiwi Operation Nest Egg programme, rowi eggs are taken out of Ōkarito Forest and hatched at the West Coast Wildlife Centre. The chicks are then moved to Christchurch’s Willowbank Wildlife Centre where they begin to learn to care for themselves while being monitored by carers. Then the juvenile kiwi are kept in predator-free sanctuaries until about a year old and 1 – 1.5 kilogrammes in size when they are better able to defend themselves from stoats.
Commonly confused but with quite different histories, the South Island Robin and Chatham Island Black Robin belong to the Petroicidae family which also includes Tomtits. As the name suggests Chatham Island Black Robin are endemic to the Chatham Islands and are restricted to two islands, Rangatira and Mangere Islands. In contrast, South Island Robin are found in South Island forests north of Arthurs Pass, in Fiordland and on Stewart Island, more commonly where Stoats and Rats are controlled.
Physically these two Robin species are very similar in size, with South Island Robin slightly heavier than their Chatham Island counterpart. South Island Robin are a sooty black with a cream breast and the Black Robin is entirely brownish-black. While the Black Robin has a tidy cup-like nest made from bark, moss and spiderwebs lined with feathers the South Island Robin’s nest is a scruffy collection of twigs, branches, leaves and moss surrounding a small cup-like nest built by the female.
The Robin’s habit of feeding amongst leaf litter collecting larvae, insects, worms and spiders puts them at risk of predation by mammalian predators. This predation is thought to be the reason for the decline, almost to the point of extinction, of the Chatham Island Black Robin. A huge effort began in the 1980’s to bring this small songbird back from the brink of extinction when only seven birds remained.
Old Blue, the only surviving female plus six males were transferred from Little Mangere to Mangere Island to aid conservation efforts. Eggs laid by Old Blue were placed in Tomtits nests to boost egg production and by 2013, the Black Robin population was estimated at 250 birds. Due to their limited genetic diversity Black Robin are vulnerable to diseases and are classified as critically endangered.
Although South Island Robin are classified as not threatened, this trusting bird is still at risk of predation by rats, stoats, possums and feral cats. Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildlife Sanctuary is now home to the South Island Robin with 24 birds transferred on the 1st of March 2016.
Above Left: South Island Robin, image by Heather Smithers
Above Right: Chatham Island Robin, image by Dianne John
About the Sanctuary
Established in 2005, Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildlife Sanctuary is the closest sanctuary to Picton. Protected by a pest resistant fence, Kaipupu Point is a safe haven to many native plant and animal species.