2 Nov, 2018 5:00am
Looking at the plight of kiwi through the eyes of children, the generation who could grow up to see the last kiwi disappear from New Zealand. / Kiwisforkiwi
Science Reporter, NZ Herald
It's been two years since the Department of Conservation launched an ambitious plan to save our national bird. In the second of a two-part series, science reporter Jamie Morton looks at the strides made so far.
Before 2003, the rowi didn't exist – at least to us.
While set apart by its soft, slightly greyish plumage and occasional white facial feathers, the bird was long thought to have been a variety of the brown kiwi until researchers realised it was a distinct species.
Had this little bird not managed to hang on, our rarest kiwi species might have vanished without ever having been documented.
When the rowi recovery project kicked off in 2006, there were fewer than 200 birds.
Today, it's estimated about 600 exist, most within the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary near Franz Josef.
By 2030, the Department of Conservation wants to push that figure out to nearly 900, under its 10-year draft plan to save all kiwi.
By turning an annual 2 per cent decline into a 2 per cent increase, DoC aspired to lift the total kiwi population from 70,000 to 100,000, all within just over a decade.
Backed by a new $3.6 million research programme, DoC also sought to restore the national distribution of all species of kiwi – particularly those closest to the brink, such as rowi and Haast tokoeka - and maintain their genetic diversity.
It was running in tandem with a collaborative effort overseen by charity Kiwis for Kiwi, which aimed to boost the number of kiwi chicks in predator-free creches.