By Sage Vernall, Kaituhi Taiao
“I recently had the great privilege of joining the “Kiwi Catching Team” with Te Papa Atawhai (DoC) and others from the Taheke Landcare Translocation group as a kaitiaki representative from the Manuhiri Kaitiaki Charitable Trust. Our mission was to head over to Te Mau Tohora a Manaia (Motuora Island) with the team to catch and translocate ten young kiwis to Whangārei for release back into the wild for an initiative led by the Taheke Landcare group.
My adventure began at the DoC office in Warkworth, where I first quarantined my gear and then attended a very educational and enjoyable cultural induction with the kiwi catching team, led by the infamous Te Ao Rosieur from the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust. We then raced to Sandspit Wharf, got sniffed down by the friendly but stern little “Kosher” the security dog to ensure that we didn’t have “any stowaways” trying to hitch a ride over to our pest free island Te Mau Tohora a Manaia. Upon arrival at Te Mau Tohora a Manaia we unpacked, went for a tour and awaited nightfall to begin the hunt for our sacred taonga, the little brown kiwis.
Night felt like it took an eternity to arrive and the anticipation of seeing my first ever little brown kiwi in the wild was killing me! Finally, the team leader from the Department of Conservation made the call, briefed us all on the correct catching methodologies and we began our mission.
Head lights shinning and laces tied tightly we headed out into the bush.
Five minutes into walking up the hill with my team, another group passed us. Looking eagerly, I spotted two dinosaur-like feet, scaly and menacing poking out from a blanket resting securely in one of their team members arms. My mind raced, I could not believe it! I had just seen my first kiwi in the wild. The only memories I had of kiwi was from years ago when I visited the kiwi enclosure at Auckland Zoo, so for me this was incredible. I could not help but grin from ear to ear as we let the group and the little kiwi pass by back down the hill to the processing hut. Just knowing I was in the presence of our sacred taonga species, the little brown kiwi made my heart race, and it did not take long before we saw a couple of fluffy little figures running across our path up ahead in the dark, more kiwi!
Then came the time for us to try and catch one. This turned out to be far more adhoc and chaotic than I expected. But we soon managed to catch one and this became little “Koru”, a name I had the privilege of choosing out of list of ten names decided on by the local school kids in Whangārei. By the end of the night, we managed to achieve our goal of collecting all ten kiwis. We got them all processed one by one and tucked away safely into their boxes for transport the next morning. The whole night went up until around 2am. My feet hurt, my muscles ached, and I was exhausted but having the privilege to be part of such a once in a lifetime experience made up for all aches and pains.
The trip came to an end the next morning as we loaded the boat up with our kiwis and headed back to Sandspit. This is where I said my goodbyes to the kiwis and the kiwi catching team, thanked them again and wished them all a safe journey north to Whangārei where these ten kiwis were being released to live out the rest of their lives in peace.
I have since heard from the team that the release of the kiwis went smoothly. 250 people in the community attended the event while our little brown kiwis from Te Mau Tohora a Manaia happily rested under the trees after their restless night and long journey. Being part of this experience was a dream come true and I cannot thank everyone enough who made my trip possible!!”