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Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

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Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is involved in the conservation and management of many endangered New Zealand animal species. Visitors to Willowbank have the opportunity to see these rare species and learn about the threats to New Zealand’s precious fauna.

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve Kiwi Breeding Centre staff work in close association with the New Zealand Conservation Trust and the Department of Conservation. Willowbank and the Trust are involved with BNZ Operation Nest Egg™ as well as having its own captive kiwi breeding programme for North Island brown kiwi.

BNZ Operation Nest Egg™ involves staff from the Department of Conservation (DOC) using transmitters to locate breeding pairs of kiwi in the bush. DOC staff monitor the kiwi regularly for when a female kiwi lays an egg. Eggs and young kiwi chicks are vulnerable to predation by stoats, rats, dogs and cats. Eggs are removed from the burrows and then carefully transported in heated chilly bins to kiwi breeding and recovery sites such as Willowbank. Once the kiwi reaches 1.2 kilograms, they can withstand attack from predators and are rereleased back into the original bush area the egg came from.

The kiwi breeding programme at Willowbank begins with a number of breeding pairs of kiwi located in a predator-proof outdoor bush area approximately 2 hectares in size. Willowbank has been involved in the breeding and management of 4 species of kiwi: North Island brown (Apteryx australis mantelli), great spotted (Apteryx haastii), Okarito rowi (Apteryx rowi) and Haast tokoeka (Apteryx australis).

Staff at Willowbank carefully monitor the breeding process through egg collection, candling, incubation and caring for the chick once it has hatched. Kiwi chicks are closely monitored. Chicks are weighed regularly to monitor their progress and fed a special diet. The kiwi diet mix made up by the staff is measured out according to each individual chick’s weight and needs. After kiwi have been fed overnight, remaining food is weighed, and this data is collected to identify trends and ensure the kiwi are developing accordingly.

Once a kiwi reaches hatch weight, it is given a health check before its release into various crèche sites throughout the South Island. These mainland and offshore sites are monitored for signs of predators to give the kiwi their greatest chance at survival.

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is open to the public daily from 9.30am–10pm. Night guided tours to see the kiwi in their natural habitat are also available.

Visit the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve website for more information on their facilities. link

The New Zealand Conservation Trust website contains information about conservation of the kiwi and other New Zealand wildlife. Educational information can also be found here. link

Specific information on kiwi and Operation Nest Egg™ can be found on the BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust website. link

This article is based on information current in 2010.




60 Hussey Road
New Zealand


+64 3 359 6226


+64 3 359 6212


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