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Miracle Winter Kiwi Arrives at Maungataniwha

03 July 2012

Frisky kiwi have baffled the experts by mating months out of season, producing a healthy egg which is due to hatch any day. Ecologist Dr John McLennan said less than 2 per cent of kiwi eggs were laid in autumn. He was shocked to discover the egg in Maungataniwha, in the mountainous back country of the Hawkes Bay. "That means these little critters are going to hatch in the middle of winter in the worst of conditions."

Fortunately the work of the Forrest Lifeforce Restoration Trust means the egg was recovered and sent to Rainbow Springs in Rotorua, to give the chick the best chance of survival.

Kiwi Encounter Kiwi Husbandry Manager Claire Travers says, "After 'candling' the egg - examining it with a light - to look at its development, it looks perfectly healthy and will probably hatch just before or during the school holidays."

The dad's name is Para and Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs - which incubates the eggs - hatched sibling chicks earlier this season named Graph and Phrase – Para-Graph and Para-Phrase.

Rainbow Springs involvement in kiwi conservation began in 1995 with the arrival of an orphaned egg and the hatchery has grown over the years to become the largest kiwi hatching facility in New Zealand, successfully incubating and hatching brown kiwi eggs from around the North Island as part of the BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust programme.

The kiwi eggs are kept safe and warm until they hatch allowing the newborn chicks to get a strong start in life away from predators such as stoats and cats. Once the chicks reach a healthy weight of around 1kg they are usually returned to the Maungataniwha. Earlier this year the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust released the 100th Kiwi back into Maungataniwha turning what was a dwindling group of aged birds into a thriving breeding population.

From Rainbow Springs the winter arrival will move on to a coastal retreat at Cape Kidnappers by October. "If it was left at Maungataniwha, which is quite mountainous and cold, it would struggle," McLennan said. The situation is odd and could be a mistake of nature, or a consequence of taking eggs from the same pairs earlier in the season, he said.

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