Archives For Recovery

Meet DOC’s Rowi Kiwi Team working hard on the West Coast of the South Island to save the world’s rarest kiwi.

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By DOC’s Andrea Crawford, Dunedin.

Over 1,000 people met three remarkable kākāpō chicks during a public viewing in Arrowtown near Queenstown recently.

The three kākāpō chicks together.

The three kākāpō chicks together

The smiles on people’s faces told it all—pure delight at seeing three kākāpō chicks at Arrowtown’s Athenaeum Hall.

Event sponsor Real Journeys’ Chief Executive, Richard Lauder, observed that the chicks were received like “rock stars” by the local community.

Arrowtown Hall was packed with people.

Arrowtown Hall was packed with people

Many people at the ‘Kākāpō Chicks Day Out‘ expressed thanks to DOC, saying they appreciated how special it was to get the chance to see these remarkable, rare and charismatic native birds.

It was great people got to see the chicks and learn about what makes them so special and, of course, raise awareness to assist with their recovery.

Students observing two kākāpō chicks through the glass.

Students meet two of the three kākāpō chicks on display in Arrowtown

Welfare of the chicks was critical, so all steps were taken to ensure they remained healthy and relaxed.

They took all the attention in their stride.

As well as a viewing opportunity, people listened to talks by DOC’s Kākāpō Recovery team, watched an audio-visual display and asked the kākāpō staff plenty of questions.

Kakapo chick looking at the camera.

Kākapō chick strikes a pose

The event raised about $5,000 for the programme, through gold coin donations, merchandise sales, and through the Kākāpō Adoption Programme.

The chicks will soon be moved to Whenua Hou/Codfish Island where they will spend four weeks in an outdoor pen. They will then be released into the wild and monitored closely for the next year while they are particularly vulnerable to misadventure as they learn about their wild habitat.

Watch the video by Real Journeys:

Do you follow Sirocco the kākāpō on Facebook and Twitter? This charismatic kākāpō is an ambassador for his species and New Zealand’s official Spokesbird for Conservation.

DOC’s Bronwyn Aalders recently spent a week on Codfish Island helping the Kākāpō Recovery team and had the privilege of meeting Maggie the kākāpō, who was tragically killed in a landslide last week.

Bronwyn at the summit on Codfish Island.

Bronwyn at the summit on Codfish Island

Midway through my week volunteering on Codfish Island as a nest controller, I had the opportunity to accompany the kākāpō rangers to track Maggie the kākāpō.

After a brisk forty minute walk across the centre of the island we started to head off track and descend the soft, tangled slopes above the sea.

It was very important to avoid the numerous petrel nests dug into the peat soil while we gradually began to pinpoint Maggie’s location. The terrain became almost vertical and we began clambering and crawling our way through twisted trunks and branches as the telemetry beeps became louder.

With packs now discarded we knew we were close, with two people above and two people below, and Maggie cleverly camouflaged and ready to run somewhere in between.

Holding Maggie the kākāpō.

Maggie the kākāpō

Suddenly a ranger looked up and spotted her calmly roosting above us trying to keep still. She was swiftly and gently brought down ready for some quick measurements and health checks.

Maggie was gorgeous and the first kākāpō I had ever seen in the wild. It was thrilling to see her up close, to smell her musky feathers and to take in her sheer size and presence. All with the sounds of the waves crashing beneath us and the sight of Rakiura in the distance.

Maggie's wing feathers spread.

Maggie’s beautiful wings

Several tests, photos, flaps and bites later, I filmed Maggie waddling away back up the hill, head down – just as Douglas Adams described in ‘Last Chance to See’.

Farewell Maggie…

Maggie's feathers up close.

Maggie’s feathers up close

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.


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.

The first kākāpō eggs in three years have been discovered by rangers on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou. The two nests that have been found so far belong to Lisa, an experienced kākāpō mum, and Tumeke who has bred before but had infertile eggs.

Both Tumeke and Lisa have laid two eggs each – but it will be another week before it’s known whether their eggs are fertile.

Today’s photo of the week is of Tumeke being viewed on her nest through a video monitor.

Tumeke the kakapo on her nest. Photo supplied by Kakapo Recovery.

Kākāpō breeding and nesting on Whenua Hou is triggered by the amount of rimu fruit available on the island, as it is the food that the mother kākāpō relies on to feed her chicks. There has been no breeding during the past two summers because of poor rimu crops.

The Kākāpō Recovery team is preparing for the possibility there could be up to 15 kākāpō nests this season.

Today’s photo of the week is of a male hihi/stitchbird on Tiritiri Matangi Island near Auckland.

Hihi/stitchbird on Tiritiri Matangi. Photo: J. Graham | flickr | Creative Commons license.

Last week the Hihi/Stitchbird Recovery Group won a prestigious Australasian conservation award in recognition of their efforts to protect this rare native bird.

The Practitioner Award was awarded to the group by the Australasian Wildlife Management Society (AWMS) at their annual conference.

“New Zealanders should be very proud of the hihi conservation success story,” said the elated Dr John Ewen, co-leader of the Hihi Recovery Group.

This photo was taken by J. Graham | CC BY-NC 2.0

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 profile Andrew Glaser—Whio Recovery Group Leader in the Te Urewera/ Whirinaki Area Office.

Andy and dog Neo walking in Te Urewera National Park.

A walk in the park, Te Urewera National Park

At work

Some things I do in my job include… trying to be the best ambassador/leader for whio, to inspire people, motivate and provide quality technical advice that will achieve whio recovery across New Zealand.

Some of the other things; Programme Manager Biodiversity Assets/Threats, Te Urewera Mainland Island, Area Compliance Officer, Fire Response Co-ordinator Whakatane/Opotiki, North Island Species Dog Certifier and a Whio/Kiwi Dog Handler.

How? Great support from my manager and a highly competent team of guys and girls in the Te Urewera Mainland Island and whio recovery programme that have the same passion and drive!!!

The best bit about my job is… being “Caption Whio”, a caped crusader for the Whio Recovery Programme, I can legitimately wear my underwear on the outside, because I know I have the support of my loyal sidekick and accomplice Tim, aka “Duck Boy” Allerby! Seriously. The whio work; a 4.30 dawn start, watchin’ the sunrise, riding up the river on my horse Ziggy, the feeling of contentedness and familiarity of horse and his gate, the creak of the leather saddle and clip of his hoofs over the coble and rhythm. The river environment; cool fresh air, the smell of the bush and Te Waiiti singing over the boulders as it runs through Te Urewera. The enjoyment of watching Neo hunting the river’s edge in search of whio, stalking ever so slowly then locking into a full point. The whistle of the male whio calls carrying across the chorus of the river’s song followed by the rattley growl of the female protecting a brood of seven ducklings. That’s the best!

Also working with a whole bunch of like minded whiolks associated with the programme, and achieving the success we have to date has been whiotastic!

Andy on Kaharoa trig, Te Urewera.

Top of the world, Kaharoa trig, Te Urewera

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far has been… initiating the partnership with Genesis Energy through the Whio Recovery Group in August 2010. This has been the most significant national milestone for whio conservation.

Their sponsorship, marketing capability and enthusiasm has provided us with the resources to implement the Whio Recovery Plan to raise public awareness and achieve whio recovery across New Zealand.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… Dr Murray Williams. Murray was very inspirational in my career, demonstrating his dedication through 15 years of whio studies on the Manganui o te Ao river and his knowledge of waterfowl. He freely transferred his knowledge and taught me the tricks of the trade using his dry wit and sarcasm to keep me on my toes and always motivated. I guess I have tried to emulate these qualities through my career and similarly inspire and motivate people by encouraging them within their programmes and transferring the knowledge that I have gained over the past two decades (geez is that how long it’s been!).

Andy doing whio work in Te Urewera National Park.

Whio work in Te Urewera National Park.

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that… I whakapapa to a line of American pioneers that settled in Nevada from Spain, hence my cowboy antics, love of horses and can do attitude. Ole’!

The song that always cheers me up is… I love music and there are so many songs to choose from, but this is a recent one that makes me smile. “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz.

In my spare time I… love to surf! It’s like baptising the soul, cleaning out all the cobwebs, washing away worries n stress, while getting an upper body work out. Quite a magical spiritual feeling of freedom, harnessing a piece of Mother Nature’s power and riding clean open wave face. Oooooh yea. Sorry, only a surfer knows the feeling! This may explain why I like whio, they too like water.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be… well, they’re all cool. From the cute little rifleman, to the hunters of the sky – the karearea, that scream through the sky at great speeds – and to the checky kea which some have likened me to. But if I had to pick, I would honestly say – yes, you guessed it – a whio!

That way I could play in the highest quality New Zealand waters, run some rapids, surf some standing waves, go with the flow and soak up the sun on a river bank. If bored, I could whistle, bite some tail, preen, dive, have a wrestle with the neighbour and keep an ever watching eye on what’s going on. Then, when feeling the need for speed, would take to wing and scream up and down the river at low levels like a fighter jet.

My secret indulgence is… I have a few: coffee, red wine (merlot), tequila, Mexican food, hot n spicy things, green salads, venison back steak bbq’d whole to m/ rare, mangos, strawberries, blueberries, fresh coriander and sexy… whio 😉 Got to love those lips, the only bird that has them. Haha even Angelina Jolie can’t compare!

Andy going for a surf.

Clean open face, oooh yea!

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quotes …

“Time to Cowboy up” – My dad.

“Take a teaspoon of cement and harden up” – My daughter (we breed them tough) haha.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… 

“Even though it’s work Andrew, nobody says you can’t have fun along the way” – Jono Williams, Project Kiwi, Kouatunu Peninsula.

In work and life I am motivated by… the challenge to succeed, by my kids, with the desire to leave a lasting legacy for them and an example to follow. I am also motivated by strong, passionate people with a commitment for conservation, team unity, positive open culture and people with drive. People like the members of Recovery Group, who go above and beyond for the cause, hugely committed in their national roles for whio. I am motivated by every practitioner and by all the hard yards that each and everyone has demonstrated through their initiatives and dedication to get their whio recovery programmes up and running. The community groups – Friends of Flora, Wapiti Foundation – and individuals like Dan Steele who see conservation as a New Zealand identity worth preserving. Tangata whenua for their staunch passion for the whenua, the ngahiri, tikanga and toanga species that dwell within Aotearoa. The recent partnership with Genesis has given new motivation through their sponsorship to enable us to actually turn the corner in whio conservation and secure this iconic species.

Ooh and a great cup of coffee!!!!

A net full of whio fledglings caught by Andy for tagging.

A net full of whio fledglings

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… our natural heritage is your identity as a New Zealander and what makes you as unique as the whio itself is to this country.

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do? I feel like I’m invisible already, well at times! I would be quite mischievous, nothing deviant or illegal, not in my nature but probably pranking my friends, random people and have a laugh. Boo!

Whio Family Fun Day at Auckland Zoo!

Andy Glaser and some of the other whio rangers will be at Auckland Zoo this weekend for the Whio family fun days at the new whio enclosure. Bring your families along to check out the enclosure and to join in a variety of fun activities around the enclosure.