Protecting the Endangered Northern Brown Kiwi

Scientists surveying the Purangi Kiwi Project site are optimistic for the Northern Brown Kiwi.

A single wildlife encounter sparked a legacy of conservation in New Zealand. Bob and Karen Schumacher discovered a Kiwi on their Purangi property in 2005, which inspired them to develop a charitable trust to protect the Endangered Northern Brown Kiwi. The 50 square-mile (13,000 hectare) East Taranaki Environment Trust (ETET) site located on the East side of the Northern Island of New Zealand is currently the site of the Purangi Kiwi Project. The project’s goal is to establish 1,000 pairs of Northern Brown Kiwi by 2020, and current conditions are extremely promising. The TSB Community Trust funded an ETET survey of the Kiwi habitat that launched in April. Results already suggest an estimated 800 Kiwi pairs, and possibly more.


Male Kiwi vocalizations are shrill and high pitch, whereas female vocalizations are low-pitched and more difficult to detect. Credit: Bruce Mercer

ETET conducts a site survey every two years to evaluate the Kiwi population. The surveying team uses acoustic instruments to record the Kiwis’ vocalizations to estimate site’s population size. Data from the ongoing survey, stationed over 100 listening sites, and recordings suggest approximately that 800 Kiwis live on the site. However, this estimate is based only on male Kiwi vocalization. Karen Schumacher elaborates:

The chicks and the juveniles don’t call and so there’s likely to be a couple of thousand unaccounted for.

Only the male Kiwis produce vocalization after the breeding season, so the chicks and females won’t start vocalizing until the upcoming season.

Purangi Kiwi Project surveyors are thrilled with current results and believe they will have achieved their goal of 1000 pairs of Northern Brown Kiwi well before the year 2020, and perhaps as soon as next year.

The surveying team has taken note of the large amount of available food on the Purangi site, and as a result they have observed the Kiwi population radiating outward into the surrounding area.

The Northern Brown Kiwi is threatened by introduced species such as stoats and cats that prey upon these flightless birds. Experts have calculated that the Northern Brown Kiwi population annually declines at a rate of 2-3%, and without the support of projects such as the Purangi Kiwi Project, in the next two generations the Northern Brown Kiwi would be extinct in the wild. The Purangi Kiwi Project is successfully supporting the Kiwi population, and the Kiwis are beginning to naturally reintegrate into Eastern New Zealand. The commitment of two citizens has developed into a significant conservation project that has protected the Northern Brown Kiwi population from extinction.

Featured photo: Mt. Taranaki, New Zealand. Credit: Herald Selke

About Dylan Meek

Dylan Meek is an undergraduate student at UCSC pursuing a major in marine biology. During her time as a student, she has become interested in conservation, and hopes to pursue a career in wildlife conservation. She has been enamored with nature her whole life, and enjoys spending her free time outdoors or in the ocean.

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