Kiwi wing their way to Mount Ruapehu

Department of Conservation —  21/05/2015

Last week I had the privilege of transporting three very special passengers from Palmerston North Airport to the Rangataua Forest, at the base of Mount Ruapehu.

Three kiwi are unloaded from a Air New Zealand flight at Palmerston North Airport. Photo: Nina Mercer.

The precious cargo arrives

These passengers don’t normally fly, but thanks to the Department of Conservation’s partnership with Air New Zealand they took to the air—on route from Orana Park in Christchurch to their new home.

DOC rangers carrying kiwi in carry boxes.

Kiwi arrive in their carry boxes

My passengers were kiwi—three North Island brown kiwi named Rata, Geyser and Ahika. And once they were safely buckled into the back seat of the car, I carefully drove my precious cargo north.

DOC rangers holding Rata, Geyser and Ahika, North Island brown kiwi. Photo: Nina Mercer.

Rata, Geyser and Ahika with DOC rangers

The birds were joined by another kiwi—Nohi, who had come from Te Puia Springs in Rotorua.

They were being released into the forest to increase genetic diversity. Rata and Geyser were already a successful breeding pair. Now the other two boys have been tasked with finding a partner and getting cracking on making babies too!

The kiwi were welcomed to their new home with a pōwhiri from Ngati Rangi.

The Rangataua Forest Ecological Area is managed in partnership with Ngati Rangi. This partnership has seen the reintroduction of around 80 kiwi into the area.

The predominantly beech forest is also home to a large population of short-tailed bats and other native species such as kākā and kārearea. Needless to say, intensive predator control is done in the area.

DOC ranger teaching Fenn how to hold a kiwi. Photo: Nina Mercer.

Learning how to hold a kiwi

After the pōwhiri, the birds were taken from their boxes for both the children and adults to see. The crowd was fascinated with the beautiful birds.

The fascinated crowds watching the kiwi release. Photo: Nina Mercer.

The fascinated crowds

Then, a karakia was said, before the kiwi were taken off to different parts of the forest.

We were able to accompany DOC rangers Alison Beath and Malcolm Swanney in taking Rata and Geyser to their temporary shelter in a carefully selected hollow log. Come nightfall though, the kiwi will no doubt wander off and check out the forest, choosing for themselves a comfortable burrow.

What an amazing day. It is such an honour to be involved in the process of releasing endangered species back into the wild—a big thanks to the awesome DOC team at Tongariro.