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Neil John introduces a kiwi to the enthralled students at Te Puru School. Photo: RACHEL HOLMES.

Nose-to-beak with kiwi

Te Puru School students held a hushed welcome for a very special visitor on March 27.

The first of Thames Coast Kiwi Care’s (TCKC) muster of kiwi stopped by on its way home to the Te Mātā kiwi sanctuary.

Students were instructed to keep still and quiet so as not to startle the nocturnal creature. The kiwi was then carried among the crowd by experienced handler Neil John, sparking awe across the faces of the excited tamariki as they came nose-to-beak with New Zealand’s totem bird.

“It was beautiful,” principal Karla Hull said. “I think it was a really special occasion. It was lovely that we were included in it. And I hope it’s a tradition we can continue to be a part of in years to come.”

The kiwi, currently nameless, is estimated to be 18 months old. Its sire is Kori, one of the original birds from Operation Nest Egg. The project aims to rebuild New Zealand’s wild kiwi population, by taking kiwi eggs from the protected sanctuary in Te Mata to Auckland Zoo for hatching, with the chicks then raised on predator-free Rotoroa Island.

Mature birds are brought back to live in the sanctuary. This year’s muster aims to return up to 25 birds.

Neil said it had been a great year for the kiwi already in the sanctuary. He said they would be making a third pick up of eggs this season.

“Being wet for us has been good for them,” he said. “[It’s] pretty unheard of for us to do a pickup in April.”

TCKC also runs a trapping programme to help protect the returned birds. More than 60 volunteer trappers are involved, walking over 2000kms of tracks and performing 15,000 trap checks each year.

By ALICE PARMINTER, Public Journalism funded by NZ on Air