Whakatane has long been known for its stunning beaches and hot weather, but it’s not just the locals and summer tourists who love the Bay of Plenty town. The area is also home to more than 300 North Island Brown Kiwi.
The Whakatane Kiwi Trust plays a big role supporting and monitoring the kiwi population and it’s an organisation the Fonterra Grass Roots Fund has been happy to help.
The Trust has received several grants from the fund, which has helped them purchase transmitters to monitor newborn chicks and provide ongoing training to ‘Teddy’ the Trust’s stoat dog.
Whakatane Kiwi Trust administrator Hannah Flatman says both the transmitters and Teddy play an important role in their kiwi protection programme.
"When the kiwi chicks are born, the transmitters are attached to their leg with a band, kind of like wearing a watch, and we can monitor their movements with a receiver. These transmitters help us keep an eye on the babies until they reach the 'stoat proof' weight of 1 kilogram (kg) which is generally around six to eight months old."
"The kiwi chicks in our project area have been under a lot of pressure from stoats recently. Teddy helps track stoat locations during times of high kiwi chick predation, enabling us to react with increased trap numbers."
Hannah says without the work of the Trust and its volunteers, sponsors and partners, around 95 percent of kiwi chicks would be killed within the first few months of life.
Bob Boreham is one of the Trust’s volunteers. Every week he spends between twelve and twenty hours ‘chick pinging.’ Bob uses a small radio to pick up the signal from the transmitters around the chick’s leg to make sure they are still alive and healthy.
He feels protecting our national bird is something everyone should get behind.
"I’ve been doing it for about three years now. A South African guy once asked me why I volunteer and I told him we couldn’t travel all over the world calling ourselves Kiwis if there were no actual kiwis left in our country."
Fonterra Grass Roots Manager Kane Silcock says the work the Whakatane Kiwi Trust do is important not just for the local community for also for the whole of New Zealand and it’s an honour to help protect one of our national symbols.
This year the Trust celebrated a new milestone – residents living near the monitored areas began to regularly report seeing kiwis in their backyards. A great sign for a population which just two decades ago was in single digits.
To find out more about the Fonterra Grass Roots Fund or how to apply for a grant, visit us at facebook.com/fonterragrassroots