“It was an honour to handle and release him,” said Brian Thomas.
Into the wild : Eltham couple Audrey & Brian Thomas arrive with Squeak for his release onto Mt Taranaki.
Article and photo by SHARYN SMART – Published in the Taranaki Daily News – 22/05/2013
Eltham farmer Brian Thomas saw the reward for months of hard work when he released the kiwi chick Squeak on to Mt Taranaki earlier this month.
The young bird, which carries Mr Thomas’ own nickname, is the first chick from the Taranaki Kohanga Kiwi at Rotokare project to be released into the wild.
“I originally got involved with the project by being a volunteer, working on the predator fence at Rotokare,” Mr Thomas said.
A joint venture between Taranaki Kiwi Trust and Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust, the project aims to build a base population of 30 breeding birds before beginning a regular release programme.
Mr Thomas said reserve staff later asked to visit his farm at night to see if there were any kiwi on his property.
A pair of kiwi were found and taken to Rotokare to form part of the project’s founder population.
Another male was fitted with a transmitter and led them to two eggs. The eggs were collected from the property in December and hatched at the Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua.
Squeak hatched on January 1 and once he weighed 1kg was deemed ready to fend for himself in the wild and help widen the kiwi gene pool on Mt Taranaki.
His sibling Rawhiti had been released earlier into Rotokare Reserve to widen the gene pool of the base population there.
Mr Thomas and his wife Audrey met his namesake after driving to Rotorua to pick him up on the day of his release.
“We met Squeak for the first time as he was taken from his cage and put into the travelling box,” said Mr Thomas.
The couple then drove directly to Mt Taranaki where Trent Martin (Ngati Whiti) conducted a karakia before Taranaki Kiwi Trust members Kris Grabow and Pat Murphy led the group deep into the national park, where a large hollowed out tree trunk became Squeak’s new home.
“It’ll be quite a different life from being fed in a tray to having to hunt for himself,” Mr Thomas said.
The quietly-spoken farmer said the whole experience had been amazing.
“It was an honour to handle and release him.”
Mr Thomas was already thinking about the next kiwi to rescue.
“Squeak’s parents have laid and hatched another chick. I have found the egg shell in the burrow,” he said.
“The odds are stacked against them in the wild, even though I have traps on my property.”
KOHANGA KIWI AT ROTOKARE
Based at Rotokare, 12km east of Eltham
230ha pest-free area
Aiming for base population of 30 kiwi
8 adults and 10 chicks released into Rotokare so far
At present 18 kiwi in total
Has $100,000 in funding from various sources.
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