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New Zealand Conservation Trust

Great Spotted Kiwi

Arthur’s Court Motor Lodge is proud to be helping in the gathering of knowledge and the conservation of this uniquely Canterbury bird - the Great Spotted Kiwi.

In 1984 a Trust was formed comprising of a group of people who were interested in preservation and displaying animals and plants of particular significance to New Zealand. This became known as the New Zealand Conservation Trust. Her Royal Highness Princess Anne is Patron of the Trust and formally opened the Kiwi Nocturnal House in 1995 as well as the Public Kiwi Viewing Centre in 2008.

The N.Z. Conservation Trust is a non-profit organisation certified under the Charitable Trust Act and is bound by a Deed of Trust. The Trust is based at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and is actively involved in the kiwi breeding programme. We work in partnership with Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and the Department of Conservation and together we are involved in breeding four of the five species of kiwi.  Three of the species are only found in the South Island and are among some of the most endangered kiwi species. They are the Haast Tokoeka, Okarito Rowi and the Great Spotted Kiwi.

It is well documented that 95% of kiwi chicks die before they reach 6 months old. This is due to the large amount of predators that they face such as ferrets, stoats, rats, dogs and cats. The kiwi breeding programme has turned this dismal outcome around so that birds being returned to the wild as adults have a much better chance of survival.

The Great Spotted Kiwi or Roroa is the only kiwi species found in the Canterbury region from the Hurunui River to Arthurs Pass.  There are pockets of populations found in northwest Nelson and the Paparoa Ranges. The GSK live mainly in higher altitude areas. They use a wide variety of habitats, including tussock grasslands, beech forests, podocarp/hardwood forests, scrub and pasture.

The Great Spotted Kiwi is a member of the Ratites and is flightless. It is the largest of the kiwi. As with all other kiwi species, it has its nostrils at the end of its bill. Their eyes are small and they do not see well and so rely mostly on its sense of smell. All kiwi species are nocturnal. The GSK males in particular are fiercely territorial. They have a reputation of having bad tempers and will defend their territories fiercely. One pair’s territory can be up to 25 hectares in size.

Great Spotted Kiwi are monogamous. The breeding season starts in July and ends in March, as this is when food is plentiful. Their diet consists of earthworms, grubs, beetles, bugs as well as berries and seeds. The egg produced will take up a fourth of the kiwi’s body mass; this makes the kiwi egg the largest in proportion to the body. The population of Great Spotted Kiwi is thought to be around 16,000 to 20,000. However the population is known to be declining at a rate of at least 2% p.a. There is also the thought that the population could be an ageing one.

Great Spotted Kiwi have received little active management in the past, but a number of community led initiatives are now under way. We are proud to be part of conserving a part of Canterbury’s unique heritage.