Saturday, June 11, 2011


Last month was very exciting at the New Zealand Wildlife Centre. Manukura, the all white kiwi, was hatched. The chick is not an albino but a rare all white hatchling. Thirteenth of fourteen kiwi chicks hatched at the Centre, Manukura is being hand reared at Pukaha Mount Bruce. The captive breeding program was designed to increase the number of kiwi chicks hatched. Only ten were hatched between 2005 and 2010, so 14 for 2011 alone is a steep increase. The Pukaha sanctuary is 940 hectares and protected by over 1000 traps. All the kiwi's hatched this year will be released when the weigh one kilogram and are able to defend themselves. Manukura may not be released, as a white kiwi may be more vulnerable to predators.

Manukura - the little white kiwi. from Mike Heydon on Vimeo.

For countless eons New Zealand's only mammal species were bats. The Maori arrived almost a thousand years ago with little impact to the birds, except perhaps the Moa. When Europeans arrived in New Zealand in the mid 1600's there was a great impact on both the Maori people but also New Zealands distinct avian species. Europeans brought with them cats, dogs and weasels and later when they settled there, goats, sheep and pigs. That latter group declined the natural habitat while the former group preyed on species that had not had such predators before. Many of New Zealand's birds are really only surviving in island sanctuaries that have been culled of mammals. Hopefully these newly hatched kiwis will give the species a foothold that it desperately needs.

Even if little Manukura is unable to be released the amount of awareness that such a special chick has raised is very important. Rangitane chief executive and Pukaha board member Jason Kerehi said tribal elders saw the white chick as a tohu, or sign, of new beginnings.

"Every now and then something extraordinary comes along to remind you of how special life is. While we're celebrating all 14 kiwi hatched this year, Manukura is a very special gift."