In the middle of the kiwi hatching season, the Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow is a hive of activity. Eggs are tenderly cared for during their incubation period and periodically ‘candled’ and turned to help with the hatching process.
When it’s time and only on their terms (much like a human baby appears earthside when it wants to), chicks burst forth from their eggy confines, their bills first poking through the shell followed by a big kick of their powerful feet.
Next is the part kiwi keepers like the most: caring for cute and fluffy chicks! Keepers weigh each bird daily, keep their brooder boxes nice and clean, and of course serve up Michellen-star meals to each of their adopted children. All the chicks need to do during this time is eat, sleep, poop and repeat!
Finally, it’s time for the chicks to bid farewell to the Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow and their wonderful keepers and venture out into the big wide world. This season, most kiwi have been released into Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari where they’ll live the rest of their days finding a mate and having lots of their own chicks that will eventually become part of Save the Kiwi’s Kōhanga Kiwi programme.
Wander into the Burrow today, though, and it’ll be very quiet. The last chick of the season left the Burrow a few weeks ago, giving resident kiwi keepers Helen, Kim and Kelsi time to take a well-earned breather.
It’s been a busy season. 58 eggs hatched and were released, taking the number of chicks hatched at the Burrow since it opened in 2019 to 283.
Of course, there have been the odd hiccup along the way. In February, Cyclone Gabrielle hit the North Island. Thankfully the Burrow sustained minimal damage, however the Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary, where the Burrow is located, sustained a lot. Hundreds of trees were blown down and the predator-proof fence that surrounds the golf course was damaged in many places. Golf course staff closed the facility for several weeks while fence contractors from Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari came in to repair the fence, and a mighty team of trappers scoured the property for any nasties that may have snuck in.
Throughout the season, the Burrow team has hosted many guests. At least 10 groups from local primary schools visited the Burrow, as part of the Kids’ Greening Taupō’s Kiwi Contact programme, sponsored by Contact Energy. Each group of children found out what goes on behind closed doors at the Burrow, and most were lucky enough to get up close and personal with a freshly hatched chick.
The Burrow has also hosted many media groups, celebrities and sponsors. During Save the Kiwi Week 2022, Dame Lisa Carrington and her husband Michael ‘Bucky’ Buck visited the facility and got to see their very first kiwi chick up close and personal (they also did their best to coax another out of its shell!). Jenny-May Clarkson and our friends from TVNZ’s Breakfast also visited the facility a couple of times, and we welcomed several sponsor groups through the Burrow including Jarden and Signature Homes.
Just as the hatching season finished up, staff got straight into helping with kiwi releases at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari. This was a wonderful full-circle moment for the team who, in their day job, care for kiwi chicks that will be released onto Maungatautari. During these significant kiwi releases, the first under Save the Kiwi’s Kōhanga Kiwi programme, they got to see the fruits of their labour – chicks that have hatched on the maunga – and help relocate them to other kiwi-safe habitat where they’ll bolster existing populations or help create new ones. Helen lent her expert kiwi handling skills to the kaupapa by carrying out extensive health checks of each kiwi before they left the maunga. Both Helen and Kelsi were drivers from Maungatautari to a kiwi release just out of Wellington, a whopping eight-hour mission – not once, but twice … there and back!
Now, the season is over and it’s time for a well-deserved break … until it starts all over again in August.
Thank you to the team at Crombie Lockwood – without their support, none of the mahi that happens at the Burrow would be able to happen. Thanks too to Ngāti Tūwharetoa for their support and guidance, and the team at Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary for being so generous with their support of our mahi.