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Owhango School student Liam Edhouse recounts his mission searching for kiwi eggs with DOC ranger Jenny Hayward in the Rangataua Forest.

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Today’s photo of the week is of one of New Zealand’s famous reptiles—the tuatara.

The tuatara is the only living representative of an ancient lineage, the order Sphenodontia, which is over 250 million years old.

Tuatara.

This week Victoria University of Wellington researchers published rare footage of a tuatara hatching from an egg.

The egg was one of 23 being incubated in captivity this year as part of a joint initiative with DOC and local Hauturu ō Toi/Little Barrier Island Mana Whenua.

This initiative is helping to save the threatened tuatara population from extinction.

Watch the video of a tuatara hatching:

Photo by Somaholiday | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

I’ve just come back from spending a week on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou down by Stewart Island helping the Kākāpō Recovery Team with the important work they do to look after those mossy green parrots.

Looking down on Codfish Island.

Codfish Island/Whenua Hou

With only 126 kākāpō in the world every chick counts, so imagine how stoked I was to be able to witness the hatching of the first kākāpō chick for the 2014 breeding season. Hopefully there could be up to six new kākāpō chicks by the end of this season.

I arrived in the deep south to news that the egg that was due to hatch had been accidentally crushed by kākāpō mum-to-be Lisa. The kākāpō rangers had been monitoring the nest and were able to swiftly rescue the egg and, thanks to some quick thinking and some good old-fashioned ‘kiwi ingenuity’ from ranger Jo Ledington, the egg was carefully repaired with some glue and tape.

A crushed kakapo egg.

Lisa’s crushed egg

The condition of the bird inside the egg wasn’t known, but everyone crossed their fingers and hoped that this little chick would be a fighter.

The day I flew into Codfish Island the chick could be heard pipping inside the egg. This was a big relief to know that the chick was alive and almost ready to hatch.

After dinner kākāpō ‘surrogate mum’ Darryl Eason ran in to tell us that the chick was starting to hatch.

Kakapo egg in the incubator starting to hatch.

Hatch day for the egg in the incubator

Luckily the chick managed to find an exit from the egg avoiding the tape and hatching out the other side. It was a frail looking bundle of fluff, but it was in a good condition. It was a fantastic experience to be in the room as the newest kākāpō entered into the world.

Kakapo hatching from a mended egg.

Welcome to the world little one

It can take a while before the sex of the kākāpō can be determined, so for now this little was is known simply as ‘Lisa One’.

The wee chick will be returned to a nest when it is healthy and strong. To give the chick the best start in life it may not go back to its biological mother Lisa, instead the rangers monitor potential foster mothers to ensure that the best mum is given the chance to raise a chick.

Baby kakapo after hatching.

Cuteness

Kia kaha little kākāpō, it was great to experience your hatch day with you and I can’t wait for further updates from the kākāpō team.

Weighing just 173 grams, the smallest kiwi chick ever to have hatched at Rotorua’s Rainbow Springs Kiwi Encounter has now arrived and is doing well.

Myfie the tiny kiwi being held at Rainbow Springs.

Myfie the tiny kiwi

Of all species in the world, kiwis are traditionally famed for laying the largest egg in relation to their body size, however this tiny specimen was considerably smaller than the average 700 gram kiwi egg.

On arrival from South Whirinaki Forest in January, the egg’s weight was just 217.6 grams compared to its clutch companion, which weighed in at 442.1 grams.

Myfie and her siblings eggs side by side.

Myfie and her sibling, side by side

Kiwi Encounter Husbandry Manager, Claire Travers believed the tiny egg could have been laid in response to an issue in the mother’s reproductive tract or diet-related.

Naming rights of the North Island brown kiwi were auctioned on Trade Me and raised $1,000 for the National Kiwi Trust.

Now the chick has a name—Myfie. However, proceeds from the auction will only cover around 50% off the costs involved with raising a chick before releasing it into the wild.

Myfie is expected to stay at the centre for between 4-6 months before being released back into the wild by DOC staff. In the interim, Myfie will continue to be monitored daily and can be viewed during Kiwi Encounter tours, which are a major source of fundraising for the kiwi hatchery.

Myfie and her sibling hatched and side by side.

Newly hatched siblings

Kiwi Encounter is New Zealand’s largest and most successful kiwi conservation centre. It has hatched and nurtured over 1,300 eggs since 1995, when Rainbow Springs became involved in the Bank of New Zealand’s kiwi recovery programme, known as ‘Operation Nest Egg’.

Rangers, Caraline Abbott and Amanda Vallis, meet Myfie.

DOC rangers Caraline Abbott (left) and Amanda Vallis (far right) meet Myfie during a behind-the-scenes- tour

Toni Thompson, Rainbow Springs’ Territory Manager gave an update on Myfie’s progress:

“Myfie is doing great and the sponsors who named her got the chance to meet her this weekend. She is gaining weight at a good pace but is still very tiny for his or her age. We still don’t know if Myfie is a male or female but should have DNA results in the next couple of months.

“If she continues on her current weight-gain trajectory, she will go outside into our runs in the next couple of weeks.”

By Steve Brightwell, Community Outreach Coordinator

When a bunch of seven and eight year olds come up with $1000 for kiwi work, it’s a spectacular and humbling example of what happens when people switch on to conservation. When it’s money from kids at a low decile school that they could have spent on themselves it’s all the more impressive.

Te Urewera Whirinaki ranger Aniwaniwa Tawa and others from her office have been visiting the class this year to talk about ecosystems and conservation with a focus on kiwi protection work.

They recently ended the study with a trip to Whirinaki Forest where they experienced the forest first-hand. Following the trip, the class presented the Area Office with a cheque for $1000 to be used to raise a kiwi chick at Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua.

A North Island brown kiwi egg.

Funds from Murupara School will help care for a kiwi egg.

A stunned Aniwaniwa explained: “The class (7 & 8 year olds) have been working with me and [former DOC ranger] Graeme Weavers for most of this year learning about kiwi and the natural environment and were so affected by what they had learnt they asked their teacher what they could they do to help. Between them and their teacher (I knew nothing about this until they presented me with the cheque), they thought they would do some fundraising however as Murupara School is officially “closing” the Board of Trustees allocated each class funding to go on a class trip to wherever they wanted. These kids chose to give up their allocation and put toward sponsorship of a kiwi and wrote a letter to the school Board to ask for approval to do this. Cool huh!”

It’s totally cool – and an awesome example of how giving people a personal experience with conservation can make a real difference to the way they think and move them to action for a cause.

A North Island brown kiwi hatching.

A North Island brown kiwi hatching

The money donated by Room 12 will now go on stand-by ready to pay for a kiwi egg to be whisked away from Whirinaki and hatched if there’s any sign of it needing help. Once the egg is hatched and the chick is raised to a safe weight to return to the forest, the students will be asked to give it a name. After that it will be set free in Whirinaki -Te Pua o Tane – one little kiwi enjoying a bright future thanks to a bunch of other little kiwis who can see conservation as a path to a bright future of their own.

Well done to everyone involved.