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Dogs Day Out event educating dog owners on seven simple steps to share the beach with our precious coastal taonga

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Teach your dog new tricks – like how to avoid kiwi when you head off on your next adventure in the bush.

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By Trudi Ngawhare, Partnerships Ranger, Gisborne

Tiki the conservation dog.

Tiki the conservation dog

Recently, we lost a “totara” for conservation.

Tiki the conservation dog passed away at the prime age of 11 (human) years.

Tiki was based at Motu, in the Gisborne region, with Ranger Joe Waikari and whānau.

He was a small Border Terrier cross who specialised in detecting mustelids (weasels, stoats and ferrets).

Ranger Joe Waikari describes Tiki as an “energizer battery, he never went flat”.

More travelled than most humans, Tiki’s work would take him (and Joe) all over the country: island work; in the back country… anywhere where extensive pest control programmes were in place, to ensure mustelid populations were gone from the area.

Tiki the conservation dog on a DOC boat.

Tiki heading to Mokoia Island, Rotorua

Tiki, was part of the Conservation Dog Programme. These detection dogs are trained to locate specific target species—either protected or predator. This helps the handler to capture and monitor protected species, or eradicate the pest species through trapping, poisoning or shooting.

Joe says the highlight in working with Tiki has been “doing our part in protecting our endangered species”.

Tiki was also a public relations specialist, winning over the crowds with his unassuming charm. He attended A&P shows and school talks, and he was a great advocate for conservation efforts with many children declaring that they wanted to go home to teach their dogs to be like Tiki.

Joe and Tiki doing training.

Joe and Tiki entertaining a crowd

Also a valued whānau member, Tiki was the champion in the small dogs category at the Matawai School Pet Day a couple of years running.

Tiki is a tribute to all conservation dogs that quietly go about their work (for cuddles and food), making huge gains for conservation.

He whakamaumahara ki a ‘Tiki’, he kuri o te papa atawhai. Moe mai e hoa, moe mai. A tribute to Tiki, the conservation dog. Rest easy friend, rest easy.

Watch this video tribute to Tiki but be careful of ‘dust getting in your eyes’:

By Cherry Beaver, Trustee, Puketi Forest Trust

The Department of Conservation recently organised a kiwi aversion training day at Puketi Forest in the Bay of Islands. The training course was well supported with over 60 dogs and their owners attending ― luckily for the trainers not all at once!

A dog in front of the sign at kiwi aversion training. Photo: Cherry Beaver.

Over 60 dogs attended kiwi aversion training at Puketi Forest, including Nichol

The training days are a really important lesson for any dog that is likely to encounter a kiwi. It is an important tool in teaching dogs that kiwi are something they should stay away from.

As part of the training three model kiwis are placed along a small bush track. The dog wears a collar and receives a mild electric shock when they pass and sniff the kiwi. Generally they only need one shock and they learn to avoid the next bird.

A dog in the forest learning to avoid kiwi. Photo: Cherry Beaver.

Nichol in the bush during his kiwi aversion training

I took my dog Nichol, and I was amazed at how fast the process worked and how the dogs learn to avoid the kiwi so quickly.

The training is not foolproof and it is recommended that dogs complete the training each year, but many kiwi could be saved if all dogs went through this simple and effective training.

A North Island brown kiwi. Photo: Eric Carlson.

North Island brown kiwi

Related links:

This week’s photo was shared on Facebook by DOC West Coast. It shows Rein the kiwi dog checking in on Norman and Stealth, two rare rowi kiwi, on Blumine Island/Oruawairua. After years of breeding problems Norman and Stealth have finally become parents to a new kiwi chick.

Rowi breeding success on Blumine Island – we’re stoked about it!


The photo was taken by Iain Graham, an Operation Nest Egg Ranger in DOC’s Franz Josef – Waiau Area Office.

To hear the romantic story of Norman and Stealth listen to this report on Radio New Zealand.

Send us your photos

If you have a great, conservation related photo you want to share with the world (or at least the readers of this blog) send it through to us at

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

March is Whio Awareness Month. To celebrate this, we thought we would profile a slightly unique staff member, Fern the whio dog based in Ohakune.

Fern the whio dog in the snow.

I love going to work in rain, hail or snow

Name: Fern Dog.
Position: Species dog – kiwi and whio.
Office: Ohakune.

At work

Some things I do in my job include… finding kiwi and whio that humans seem incapable of locating. It’s so easy to sniff them out and I’m not really sure why they have noses if they aren’t prepared to use them. I’m also involved in advocacy work at schools and end up with a heap of kids sitting on and around me. I don’t really mind that because the kids make quite a fuss over me, and my ranger (Malcolm) talks about cool stuff like stoats and rats and possums.

The best bit about my job is… finding whio that the rangers can’t locate and listening to them discussing when they had last seen the birds and how they thought the birds had either been preyed upon or left the area. I have just started to help my ranger move the whio into nets for banding and that is very cool. I don’t like herding sheep but ducks are neat to herd and I get to swim in the deeper water because Malcolm is a bit of a sook once the water gets up to his waist.

Fern the whio dog crossing a swing bridge.

At first my ranger Malcolm was a bit scared of crossing swingbridges, but I showed him how it is done

The funniest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… when we were herding ducks into a net and I had done a great job when ranger Bubs said he would move the last ducks with a volunteer (as he had a real rapport with this pair). I lay in the sun with Malcolm and then we got a radio call to say the ducks had gone to ground and they couldn’t find them. I took Malcolm downstream and located the first one in a cave but was informed Bubs had already checked that cave out. Well he must have been using ‘boys eyes’ because ranger Ali looked in the cave and came out with a whio. How surprising!

Then I took Malcolm further downstream and pointed the second bird out to Bubs who actually managed to catch it. ‘At least he got that right,’ I thought to myself. When Malcolm told ranger Ali that we had caught the second bird she was very indignant as she had a huge net across the river and a heap of volunteers ready. I couldn’t help laughing to myself and I am pretty sure Malcolm had a grin on his face.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… Neo, a male German short hair pointer who owns Andy Glaser. He’s not quite as big as me but he is very handsome. We have discussed having puppies together at some stage. He bought ranger Andy down to Mangatepopo a few weeks back and showed me how good he was at locating and herding whio. He is seven years old and works whio very well. Once I saw him working I thought ‘I’m going to be as good as him,’ and I have stepped up to be like Neo. He said he has taught Andy all he knows about species dog work and I am teaching Malcolm so that he can work at a higher level too.

Fern the whio dog sniffing out whio.

The nose knows

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is… ‘Who let the dogs out’.

My stomping ground is… Mt Ruapehu and the rivers of the central plateau.

If I could trade places with any other person for a week—famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional—it would be… Neo.

The best piece of news I’ve heard lately is… that I passed as a fully certified whio dog for the Department of Conservation.

Fern the whio dog pointing out whio on the river.

Here is me doing what I do best: pointing out whio to humans

In my spare time I… rush round on Malcolm’s farm and show up the farm dogs that are slow and have noses and ears painted on their faces.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be… a falcon/karearea because then I could fly to the whio and give them one hell of a fright.

My secret indulgence is… food and I would make a good biosecurity sniffer dog at an airport.

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to be… a deer dog as deer are so easy to locate compared to kiwi and whio.

Fern and Ranger Malcolm monitorwhio in the Tongariro forest.

Me and ranger Malcolm monitoring whio in the Tongariro forest whio security site

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… ‘They are still making them!’ when humans whinge about something broken or missing.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… don’t be grumpy because life is too short.

In work and life I am motivated by… DOC rangers who are so passionate about New Zealand’s environment and biodiversity.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… look after it or lose it.