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Fears for NZ's kiwi population

Published: 6:19PM Wednesday June 05, 2002

New Zealand's wild kiwi population could disappear within 15 years according to the Forest and Bird Society.

It says the wild kiwi population is plummeting in its natural habitat and while 80 years ago there were five million kiwi now just 75,000 remain. The society says only kiwi in managed populations and sanctuaries are likely to survive.

Most New Zealanders get a glimpse of their native bird in kiwi houses or wildlife parks, but Forest and Bird fears that in 15 years that is the only place a kiwi's call will be heard.

"What we'll see is the continuous decline of kiwi outside of managed areas," spokesman Erik Pyle says.

The Department of Conservation looks after five kiwi sanctuaries where the survival rate of kiwi chicks has gone from six to 75% in a year. But DOC admits it cannot guarantee the fate of kiwi in the wild.

"Stoats, cats, weasels, dogs - these are the things that are decimating our wildlife population in the main land and we have to find ways of stopping that," DOC spokesman Paul Jansen says.

Research into stoat control is continuous and after a funding boost two years ago DOC now spends about $3 million on kiwi every year. Jansen says that protects 45,000 hectares.

But Forest and Bird says the figure needs to treble and the country has a window of opportunity of three to six years to save the bird.