Here at COLC we appreciate that many of our students come here to see the natural beauty on NZ. Therefore most of our support goes into environmental initiatives, and perhaps the most interesting is our support of the local Project Kiwi Trust.
We are a small school so our ability to give a big cash donation is limited. We do support them financially, but our discussions with Project Kiwi made it clear that we could make a more significant contribution in a very different way. Regular man power is needed to service the large number of trap lines required to keep the kiwi protection zone predator free. COLC has established a trap line of 35 traps, designed to kill stoats (which are the worst predator of kiwis), and also rats. We service the trap line every couple of weeks and this involves removing and recording kills, re-baiting and re-setting the traps, and keeping them in good working order.
We have been trapping in this area for a little over a year now, and have removed 120 rats and 6 stoats in that time. The stoats in particular are important because there are now only 70,000 kiwis left in NZ and it is estimated that stoats kill approximately 20,000 kiwi chicks each year. Kiwis can breed fast enough, we simply cannot keep the chicks alive.
We also sponsor one egg a year through Project Nestegg. In this initiative Project Kiwi locates nests by placing radio transmitters on the male kiwis in their area. They then take the egg from the nest and deliver it to a special hatchery in Rotorua. There the egg is hatched and the kiwi chick is grown in a predator free environment, until it is approximately one kilogram in weight. At this size it is able to defend itself against most predators that it would encounter in the wild. At this stage we would go and collect the kiwi and bring it back here to the Coromandel, and release it back into the wild, where it came from. Sometimes students who are here at the right time are lucky enough to be involved in these releases.
Kiwi chicks born in the wild have about a 5% chance of survival. If one is born in an area that is well trapped, it has about a 45% chance, and those small number of chicks lucky enough to go through Project Nestegg, have about a 90% chance of survival.
Kiwi protection involves many people right across New Zealand, but here on the Coromandel Peninsula, we are doing our bit to help protect our local population of these extraordinary birds.