Giving kiwi teeth
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- Moehau Environment Group (MEG)
Free kiwi aversion training for dogs is part of a holiday programme for visitors to the Coromandel in summer.
Kiki’s a giant in comparison, and their natural predator, but she reckons kiwi bite.
The young, highly excitable and wriggly boxer dog, who belongs to Moehau Environment Group (MEG) general manger Ally Davey, has experienced first-hand the free kiwi aversion training available for visiting canine pets in the Coromandel Peninsula over the summer holiday period.
For the training, dogs are made to wear a special collar and walked near a stuffed and scented kiwi. If they show an interest they are given a short, sharp shock from the collar.
“Kiki definitely thinks kiwi bite,” says Ally, who takes her dog with her when she checks traplines in the forest near her Little Bay home. “It’s not the be all and end all, but she certainly gave that stuffed kiwi a wide berth at the end of her training.”
MEG is a volunteer group of mostly landowners who want to protect and enhance the natural environment of the northern Coromandel Peninsula. The kiwi aversion training is part of the group’s summer holiday programme, which aims to educate and inspire visitors about the region’s natural treasures.
“We’ve had a big problem here with dogs and roaming. The Coromandel has had the highest number of kiwi killed by dogs in New Zealand.
“People are coming here on holiday and they don’t realise there are kiwi nearby where they stay. Even just a dog bumping a kiwi and knocking it down can kill it because they have no sternum, no bone to protect the heart and internal organs. People say ‘oh, my dog wouldn’t hurt a kiwi’, but even if their little dog just chases a kiwi and it gets smacked around it can die.”
MEG started in 2000, then just a small group of Port Charles locals protecting kiwi in their patch. That patch was expanded after a young kiwi went missing from their sanctuary to turn up in Papa Aroha, about 30 kilometres to the south.
“This little kiwi had walked all the way through unprotected forest. So the landowners thought we need to do something about that, and that’s how it all began.”
Today, MEG traps rats, stoats and possums on 14,000 hectares of mostly privately owned land between Coromandel and Port Charles. Without predator control, only 5 per cent of kiwi chicks survive.
MEG’s vision is to become the largest open sanctuary in New Zealand.
The group partners with more than 700 landowners, other conservation groups, Waikato Regional Council, the Department of Conservation, local schools and iwi on coordinated pest control. The regional council helps to fund a full-time trapping team.
“The field team does predator control, services the tracks and manages all the trap upgrades. This year they cut about 117 kilometres of tracks and replaced 250 stoat boxes. Without them we would be stuffed.”
As a result of all this predator control, kiwi are flourishing in certain parts of the peninsula, and Coromandel holidaymakers have the opportunity to get up close and personal with them this summer. One of the activities of the summer programme is joining kiwi handlers as they track and catch kiwi for six-month health checks.
“We are so privileged to have kiwi,” says Ally. “We don’t mind sharing them but people don’t always know what’s involved in ensuring their survival. If we can educate and inspire people to take a bit of a look at their environment, well that helps make a difference.”
See Meg.org.nz for more information on the group and information and dates for the 2018 Summer Programme. Bookings are essential for the Summer Programme, and all funds raised go towards protecting kiwi habitat in the Coromandel. The Moehau Environment Group is also on Facebook.