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The start of something extraordinary

Koru the Kiwi's final farewell

As part of our State Kiwi Swim Safe programme, SNZ have been supporting the Kiwi recovery work of the Whakamanu trust and the rearing of a kiwi chick. Koru the Kiwi chick was born at Fairy Springs in Rotorua on 21 January 2011. Approximately 6 months later Koru was ready to be released back into the wild. Over the past year Koru has been monitored and tracked moving throughout the bush outside Ohakune.

Ernslaw One Ltd had advised the Whakamanu Wildlife Trust for the need to divert funding away from Op Nest Egg in Waimarino Forest (where Koru lives) in favour of establishing large scale pest control. The Whakamanu Wildlife Trust support the initiative to take 30 birds from Waimarino Forest so they can start their breeding programme. This will be a long-term commitment and will guarantee survival of the species well into the future. For Swimming New Zealand this meant that the trust would no longer be able to retain a transmitter on Koru as there will be no resources available for continued monitoring. Trust chariman, Kerry Oats invited some of the education staff members to accompany him to Koru’s final health check and transmitter removal, where we learnt about back country navigation, tracking radio transmitters, map, compass and GPS use and of course a hands on experience with Koru.

Kerry Oats, Belinda Galley, Cecilie Elliott and Wendy Smith  headed into the bush first thing Tuesday morning to start the tracking of Koru. We had to scale through dense high country bush which was thick and made for very slow moving. After 4 hours of walking up and over a series of gullies, we soon realised Koru had moved a long way from where he was tracked 2 weeks ago. As the 5 hour mark got closer we finally picked up a tracking signal from Koru's transmitter on his leg. This signal told us it would be another 3 hrs away before we were within 20m of Koru. It was at that moment we decided we would not have enough day light to get him and decided to call it a day.

The next morning we set out to find this very clever kiwi who had seemed to allude 4 adults to his whereabouts. After 3 hours of bush walking, bank sliding, mud up to our waists and a lot of laughter, we found Koru and his burrow.

He had gained 40 grams, and Kerry was now very happy with his weight and progress. His bill is now 84.8mm, and has grown 2.3mm since May. We weighed Koru and Kerry gave a bit of info about Kiwi’s and their habitat. We then cut his transmitter off his leg and let him go back into his burrow. It was a fantastic experience and a real adventure.

Koru is now free to start his life and hopefully find a mate in the next year.