Rarest of Birds Returns to Forest
In New Zealand, the Rowi kiwi is one of the rarest wild birds, with a population of about 350. Their numbers plunged due to the impacts of predators, like the stoat, and habitat loss. Recently about 35 of them were released on South Island in the Okarito Forest. Rowi kiwis have not lived there for twenty years. It was the largest release of rowi kiwi ever. A conservation official there, Mr. Livingstone said, “The department is increasing the species’ numbers pretty consistently, meaning we’re now in a position to help these birds claim back old habitats.” (Source: BayofPlentyTimes) He also said it was good luck there was forest remaining for the birds, as their habitat had been diminished enough they had been pushed back where they had no other place to go.
Their eggs had to be removed by conservation workers and hatched on a predator-free island to ensure their safety. Okarito is the only place they live in the wild. All the reintroduced kiwi have radio transmitters attached to them so scientists can track their locations and behavior. Scientists hope the young kiwis are mature and strong enough to protect themselves from predators. If all goes according to plan, they will be in good condition for the next breeding season and begin repopulating their natural habitat. Both male and female rowi kiwi take turns caring for the one egg per year they produce. Most pairs mate for life. Although the overall population is very small, and the bird’s status is critically endangered, they can live up to 100 years.
Okarito Forest is located on the South Island, the largest New Zealand island, sometimes called the mainland. The forest is near Okarito Lagoon which is the largest unaltered wetland in New Zealand. A small town of about thirty people there is called Okarito. There are bird watching, eco-tours and kayak tours for the lagoon. If the rowi kiwi can recover to a stable population, perhaps one day they will be included in the bird watching tours. Due to its natural beauty, New Zealand draws many tourists every year and tourism generates large revenues for the country.
Image Credit: Livingheritage.org