How Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre is increasing kiwi survival rates from 5% to 65%... including the little white kiwi

Jessica Satherley
How Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre is increasing kiwi survival rates from 5% to 65%... including the little white kiwi
Manukura is an eight-and-a-half-year-old white kiwi

Manukura is an eight-and-a-half-year-old white kiwi and she's become one of the stars of Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre in the Wairarapa. 

She was given to the bird sanctuary while still in her egg and hatched in 2011, as part of Operation Nest Egg, which is a movement dedicated to improving the plight of kiwi. 

The wildlife centre increases survival rates of kiwi from 5% in the wild to 65% under their care, and Pūkaha has just announced that Westpac NZ is its newest sponsor due to a mutual love of local conservation. 

“We're a captive breeding facility and then we release the animals into the wild,” says Sarah Watkins, Pūkaha’s commercial development manager. 

Photo of a kiwi egg

The white kiwi was given to the sanctuary as an egg (kiwi egg pictured)

“We work with other sanctuaries and volunteer groups on Operation Nest Egg, run by Kiwis For Kiwi to reverse the decline of kiwi in New Zealand.    

“Kiwi eggs are brought to us; we incubate them until they hatch and release them into wild once they reach about 20 days old. 

“We release them wherever they came from in our reserve or other locations,” she says. 

Another aim of the sanctuary - an unfenced reserve of 942 hectares - is to achieve a predator-free New Zealand by 2050. 

The predators they are trying to eliminate include stoats, ferrets, possum, rats, mice, hedgehogs and feral cats. 

Photo of kiwi chick

The sanctuary is increasing survival rates for kiwi in New Zealand

Manukura the white kiwi won’t be released into the wild though, as due to her light colour, “she’s an easy target for predators as introduced predators primarily hunt by sight”, Watkins said. 

“She’s leucistic, which means she has lost the pigmentation in her feathers, but she still has blue eyes, so she is not albino. 

“Her parents came from Little Barrier Island and she has a brother called Mapuna, who is also white, but Mapuna is not on display,” Watkins said. 

Manukura has become such a sensation that author Joy Cowley even wrote a children’s book about her in 2012, titled Manukura The White Kiwi. 

Photo of kiwi chicks

Once the kiwis are around 20 days old they are released into the wild

Some of the other birds that Pūkaha is helping through reestablishing populations with captive breeding include: the shore plover (tuturuatu), the blue duck (whio), the bush parrot (kākā), the brown kiwi, the brown teal (pāteke), the kākāriki, the blue wattled crow (kōkako), the stitchbird (hihi), and the rifleman (titipounamu).  

"People from the public can contribute to the cause by visiting the sanctuary. 

“We’re a not-for-profit so all the entry fees and profits from the café go directly to our conservation work,” Watkins said. 

Westpac NZ’s Bank Manager in Masterton, Treen Edmonds, says: “Supporting Pukaha to protect our beautiful fauna and flora at Mt Bruce is an absolute privilege and is a great resource for locals and visitors to see our diverse and sometimes vulnerable wildlife up close and personal.” 

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