Roroa reintroduction

Roroa - Great spotted kiwi

Roroa disappeared from the Flora area some 40 years ago. We don't know exactly why, but the main threats to kiwi are stoat predation of chicks and predation of adults by dogs. With both these threats being managed we set about re-establishing adult kiwi in the Flora. Best practice, to ensure sufficient genetic diversity, is to found new populations with at least 40 birds. Roroa translocations are technically and logistically challenging, so a phased approach was developed in conjunction with DOC, iwi and the Kiwi Recovery Group. Four translocations were carried out over six years. Intensive post-translocation monitoring, to determine the success of the translocation and to learn more about this little known bird, was carried out. This became FOF's biggest project after trappings.

The first translocation to the Flora brought 12 kiwi from the Clark River in May 2010. Having determined that these birds settled into home ranges and started to breed, a further 12 kiwi were brought in from New Creek in March 2013m eight kiwi from the upper Roaring Lion in May 2013 and 12 kiwi from South Gouland in April 2016.

All the translocated kiwi were fitted with a VHF transmitter to enable us to monitor their locations and activity without having to get too close and risk disturbing these shy birds. FOF's team of expert kiwi trackers monitored the kiwi fortnightly. From this we:

  • identified kiwi that moved outside the project area and returned those that were vulnerable to predation
  • determined the location and size of home ranges and how these changed over time
  • recognised pair bond formation and stability
  • monitored breeding activity

Once breeding activity was identified the kiwi nest was found and infrared cameras installed nearby to determine whether a chick hatched and what predators visit the nest. The first chick in the Flora for decades hatched in December 2012. Many video clips were posted on Facebook to illustrate the private lives of [e.g. www.facebook.com/friendsofflora/videos/1524066417603460/) . These videos have enabled thousands of people to experience this shy nocturnal icon.

In 2018, two years after the last translocation, we had sufficient information to show that the kiwi were establishing a sustainable population in the project area. The kiwi had settled and sub-adult kiwi, bred in the Flora, were pairing with reintroduced birds. These were the success measures we were seeking and we removed the transmitters from the kiwi. We continue to monitor the number of kiwi calls to determine the ongoing status of the population.

Roroa are classified as nationally threatened with declining populations in areas in which pests are unmanaged. Roroa are long-lived (current estimates are about 50 years) but may not start breeding until eight years old or more. This means that population growth, even in ideal conditions, is very slow. FOF's kiwi project has been important in testing whether translocation is a practical conservation technique for this species and has shown that a population will grow with intensive pest control.