Sparky the Kiwi educates residents at Chalmers Resthome

Owen Henry with Sparky
Owen Henry with Sparky

Four generations got to meet a one-legged kiwi at Chalmers Resthome.

“I was absolutely thrilled to meet Sparky,” said Owen Henry.

“Today was the first time I’ve actually seen a live kiwi.  I have grown up with a stuffed kiwi called Okoki.”

“When Bob put Sparky in the basket of my scooter it was great as I got to see him very close up and touch him.”

“I couldn’t believe he just sat there.”

Some of Owen’s extended family came to visit Sparky too.

Owen Henry with some of his extended family.
Owen Henry with some of his extended family.

“It was great to have four generations of my family visit and be able to share the experience.

“I’ve heard kiwi at my son’s farm at the back of Oakura and he has seen signs of them but we have never managed to see one.”

This is the first time that Sparky has visited a resthome in Taranaki.

“Not many people of my generation have had the opportunity to see a live kiwi so today was very special,” said Owen.

Olive Nicholas (my Grandmother) with Sparky
Olive Nicholas (my Grandmother) with Sparky

Olive Nicholas is one of the older residents at Chalmers and she was very excited to meet Sparky.

“I’m ninety-nine and this is the first time I’ve touched a kiwi.  I have seen them at the zoo but to meet Sparky is wonderful.

“He felt so soft to touch.  It was great how he hopped around with only one leg.”

Owen’s fascination for kiwi stems back to his childhood.

“I’ve been farming in Matapu, South Taranaki for 57 years.  When I inherited the farm I also inherited Okoki a stuffed kiwi.”

A relative of Owen’s worked at a quarry near Okoki where the bird was found dead and then a second relative stuffed the kiwi.  It then became a family heirloom passed down the generations.

DOC’s Education and outreach ranger Denise Rowland helped organise Sparky’s visit to Chalmers Resthome in New Plymouth.

Owen Henry with Sparky, Denise Rowland, Karen Schumacher and Robert Webb.
Owen Henry with Sparky, Denise Rowland, Karen Schumacher and Robert Webb.

“It was fantastic to be able to share sparky with all ages of people he is an amazing advocate for kiwi conservation.   I would like to thank the East Taranaki Environment Trust and Robert for bringing everyone together,” she said.

DOC knew that Karen and Bob Schumacher from the East Taranaki Environment Trust were flying Sparky into Taranaki and so they contacted them.

“DOC asked us if we could kindly bring sparky here to Chalmers because Owen was not mobile enough to come out in the field.

“We rang Chalmers and organised with them so they could have everyone here in the rec room so that everyone got the opportunity to see Sparky.

“For us it was a real privilege because we know how passionate Owen was earlier about Okoki.  This was just a little of giving back that we had the opportunity to ensure everyone got to see Sparky,” Karen said.

Sparky travels by plane with his carer Robert Webb as a kiwi ambassador promoting wildlife conservation by educating kiwis young and old about kiwi birds.

Robert is from the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre and has had Sparky since he was three months old.  Sparky was caught in a gin trap and as a result had to have his leg amputated.  Because he had been handled so much and was unable to fend for himself in the wild it was decided he would live out his days educating humans how to look after his relatives.

“The most important thing is getting round the schools to be able to see the children.  That is our next generation so them growing up knowing what a kiwi feels like to me is very important.  We have got the big kids today.  It doesn’t matter whether it is a young person or an elderly person there are so many who have never ever touched a kiwi in their life.   To be able to share him like this is fantastic,” Robert said.

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