Last week we undertook a ‘research reconnaissance’ on Auckland’s Rangitoto Island.

Neighbouring Motutapu Island is home to a thriving population of kiwi originally from Hauraki-Coromandel. The islands are connected by a large intertidal area and causeway bridge and over the years some kiwi have caught the travel bug and have wandered from Motutapu to Rangitoto.

Not enough is known about the year-round suitability of Rangitoto for kiwi in terms of habitat and water supply. Because the temperatures on volcanic rock can reach up to 70 degrees Celsius, Save the Kiwi wants to gain greater insight into the state of the health of any kiwi who live on Rangitoto and move them somewhere we know they’ll thrive.

Save the Kiwi’s Will Kahu, Al Grant and James McLaughlin spent a few days on Rangitoto using kiwi dog Charlie and a range of other tools to locate kiwi and relocate them to Rotoroa Island. During their time on the motu, the team relocated four kiwi that are founders of Motutapu’s breeding population. In due course they’ll be returned to Motutapu in the hopes they will resettle in a better location on the island and continue breeding the next generation of kiwi on the motu.

The purpose of this mahi is to gain greater understanding about kiwi welfare and suitable kiwi habitat. We hope to continue catching on Rangitoto as part of this year’s Motutapu population survey and include a couple of listening sites during this year’s inaugural kiwi call survey. We’re also working with DOC and Ngāi tai ki Tāmaki to reduce the number of kiwi that can make their way onto Rangitoto in the future.

Thank you to the Department of Conservation, Ngāi tai ki Tāmaki, Motutapu Restoration Trust and Rotoroa Island NZ for supporting this mahi. Thank you also to the team at Heletranz Helicopters, New Zealand for giving these kiwi the gift of flight! On the day, ferry and water taxi availability just didn’t work so we’re very thankful (and now these kiwi can say they can actually fly!).