What is your background and how did you get involved with The Farm at Cape Kidnappers?
I have an academic training in ecology and spent 25 years working for the Department of Conservation managing ecosystem restoration, most recently managing the biodiversity programme in Fiordland National Park, at 1.2 m hectares New Zealand’s largest national park. Introduced mammalian predators (rats, stoats, ferrets, possums) are the biggest threats to New Zealand’s indigenous fauna (which evolved in the absence of mammals),controlling and eradicating these pests has been my specialist area. I have long admired the achievements of Cape Sanctuary with the integration of successful conservation with business, including farming and tourism, and felt privileged to have the opportunity to be part of this project.
What is the kiwis connection to New Zealand? Are they indigenous to the country?
Kiwi are an unusual bird species found only in New Zealand, it is of the ratite group- related to ostrich, emus and moa. Kiwi are flightless, nocturnal, have strong legs and a long bill for probing for food with nostrils at the tip of the bill for detecting prey and have feathers almost hair like. They are New Zealand’s most recognized iconic species and New Zealanders are happy to be known worldwide as ‘kiwis’.
Describe the Kiwi Discovery Walk at Cape Kidnappers?
The Kiwi Discovery Walk is a unique opportunity for guests to accompany Sanctuary kiwi experts on health checks where chicks equipped with tracking transmitters are regularly checked to ensure their wellbeing. The chicks are living in the wild within the Sanctuary, while there is no guarantee Sanctuary staff will locate the chicks there is a very high success rate locating and capturing chicks. On the walk guests will participate in the search for the kiwi chick, learn about the species from our specialist staff and be able to observe kiwi up close as they go through the health check process.
What is your favorite aspect of this guest experience?
It is a fantastic to be able to share this amazing species with others, there are very few opportunities to see kiwi up close in the wild in New Zealand and in fact most New Zealanders will never see a kiwi in their lifetimes.
How do guests react to this experience? Is it meant for more than just birders?
Guests are invariably excited to see this species up close and understand what a privilege it is. It is definitely not just an experience for birders, it is hard not to be amazed at this quirky bird when you get up close and personal with them.
What is the Cape Kidnapper’s Sanctuary and how many endangered kiwis have you rescued?
Cape Kidnappers Sanctuary is one of New Zealand’s largest privately owned and managed wildlife sanctuaries. 2500 hectares of the Cape Kidnappers peninsula are protected from predators by a 10.5 kilometre predator proof fence, supplemented by an intensive predator control programme. As well as protecting vulnerable species already present in the Sanctuary, 18 species of birds, reptiles and insects have been relocated to the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is cutting edge in the way it integrates conservation and threatened species recovery with other land uses.
Cape Sanctuary has established breeding populations of North Island Eastern Brown Kiwi and Little Spotted Kiwi. It is the, only place in New Zealand where Eastern Brown Kiwi are secure and increasing - elsewhere predation is seeing kiwi numbers decline. Additionally the Sanctuary acts as a ‘creche site’, rearing chicks that have been hatched in an incubation facility after the eggs were uplifted from vulnerable wild populations. Once the chicks are large enough to be better equipped to fend off predators they are released back in to the wild to supplement those populations. Over the past 10 years the Sanctuary has cared for and released over 300 kiwi back in to the wild outside of the Sanctuary.
Do you have an at home tip to learn more about the kiwis?
You can learn more about the kiwi at Cape Sanctuary by visiting the Cape Sanctuary website and Facebook page, to learn more about kiwi in wider New Zealand visit the Department of Conservation or Kiwi for Kiwis websites.