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'Kiwis for Kiwis' - Royal Forest and Bird

The Kiwi is much more than a bird in New Zealand, it is part of the cultural identity. The people of New Zealand even call themselves ‘kiwis.’ Forest and Bird launched its kiwi protection program, ‘Kiwis, for Kiwis’ with a goal to secure twelve kiwi sanctuaries between 10,000 and 20,000 hectares for the five species of Kiwi that live on the mainland of New Zealand. The great spotted kiwi (roa), North Island brown kiwi, Okarito brown kiwi (rowi), southern tokoeka and Haast tokoeka still remain in the wild on the mainland. Along with the creation of the sanctuaries systematical predator eradication is necessary.

The Kiwi is a biological oddity because of its appearance and behavior. Kiwi are nocturnal and flightless. The Kiwi has an exceptional sense of smell and the nostrils are found on the tip of the bill. They use their strong sense of smell to find worms and invertebrates to eat.


An estimated 12 million Kiwi once inhabited the islands of New Zealand. Today only 50-60,000 birds remain. All of the mainland species of Kiwi are threatened with extinction within 15 years if current trends of decline continue. To prevent the extinction of this icon survival rates need to improve before the existing adult population has passed reproductive age.


The current low rates of reproduction and chick survival combined with fierce territoriality and forest alteration make habitat preservation extremely important to the survival of the Kiwi. Chick mortality is a key factor to the species decline. Kiwi generally lay only one egg a season and each egg takes between 75-80 days to hatch. Cats and stoats kill about 95% of juvenile Kiwi. The main threats to adult Kiwi are dogs, ferrets, possum traps, cyanide poison (used for killing possums) and vehicles. Habitat loss threatens kiwi populations for several reasons. Forest clearing concentrates predators and forces the territorial Kiwi to move into unsuitable habitat. Goats and deer open the forests to predators, like domestic cats and dogs, that may not have been able to penetrate the forest before the clearing.


Forest and Bird has said that a shortage of money is the single most important barrier to Kiwi protection. The goal of twelve kiwi sanctuaries will require $110 million annually to operate. Further research on predator control is also needed. Therefore Forest and Bird believes that conservation is a political matter.

A solution would see a range of cost-effective tools combining aerial and ground applied 1080, community initiatives and intensive trapping of stoats and rats.
The campaign continues and Forest and Bird is presently working to secure kiwi sanctuaries in the following regions: Urewera; Taranaki; Whanganui; North West Nelson; North Canterbury; Buller; Fiordland.

Here are a few things Forest and Bird would like you to do to save the kiwi:

  • Join Forest and Bird to support the Kiwis for Kiwis Campaign.
  • Make a donation to support the Kiwis for Kiwis Campaign.
  • Join young kiwis to the Kiwi Conservation Club.


  • Forest and Bird has succeeded in convincing the New Zealand Government of the urgent situation facing kiwi and can take credit for increased conservation funding and the establishment of 5 kiwi sanctuaries. The sanctuaries cover 43,000 hectares in: Northland (near Whangarei), Coromandel (Te Moehau), Central North Island (Tongariro National Park), and Westland (Okarito and Haast).
  • Forest and Bird has raised public awareness about the plight of kiwi and has been instrumental in gaining public support for their protection from extinction.
  • Creation of 13-18 new community kiwi care groups (depending on what stage the organization is at being set up) protecting kiwi in 20,000 hectares of native forest.
  • Operation Nest Egg, has been set up to get kiwi through their first vulnerable year. Eggs are taken from kiwi burrows in the wild, incubated and hatched. The chicks are reared in captivity for about a year until they reach a size where they can protect themselves from predators. The kiwi chicks are then released into kiwi sanctuaries.


Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc. 2001. 25 Sept, 2003 <>.