May 25, 2011

Breeding Season Produces Rare White Kiwi Chick

Lucky number thirteen!

The Pukaha Mount Bruce wildlife Center reintroduced the kiwi into the wild in 2003, but this year marks the New Zealand national wildlife center's most successful breeding season, ending with the thirteenth egg hatching into a rare white kiwi chick.

"As far as we know, this is the first all-white chick to be hatched in captivity," says Pukaha Mount Bruce Board chairman, Bob Francis.

"The intention of the transfer was to increase the kiwi gene pool at Pukaha and grow the population in the long-term. The kiwi population on Little Barrier Island has birds with white markings and some white kiwi, but this was still a big surprise."

No white kiwi were brought to Pukaha.

The local tribe Rangitane o Wairarapa has named the chik Manukura. "Manu" means something of high rank and also means a bird, while Kura means precious and also means feather.

The rare chick is not considered an albino, but rather the rare progeny of kiwi that were transferred to Pukaha from Hauturu/Little Barrier Island last year, according to a press release from the Department of Conservation (DOC).

According to Rangitane chief executive and Pukaha board member Jason Kerehi, tribal elders see the white chick as a sign of new beginnings.

"Every now and then something extraordinary comes along to remind you of how special life is.  While we're celebrating all 14 kiwi hatched this year, Manukura is a very special gift," Kerehi says.

The chick will be hand raised in Pukaha Mount Bruce's new kiwi nursery, which was a recent $1.4 million upgrade to the nocturnal house.

Visitors will be able to view the chick in its nocturnal brooder box until the end of May when it will then reside in captivity with the other chicks at Pukaha for about four to six months, and if all is well the rare chick will continue to be viewed several times a week while it is being weighed.

Potentially, the chick will be released into the sanctuary once it is old enough to protect itself, but DOC rangers will decide what the best interests of the bird will be.

"A white kiwi might really stand out making it more vulnerable," says DOC area manager Chris Lester.

"We want to ensure that as many people as possible get a chance to see it, and that we keep it as safe as possible. We also recognise the need to take everything into account when deciding how best to keep Manukura safe."