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Kiwi released onto Motuihe Island

Saturday 21 Mar 2009 12:00a.m.

Kiwi released onto Motuihe Island

It has been a big day for some little kiwi icons. After years of planning, nine little spotted kiwi have been released onto Motuihe Island, just 30 minutes from Auckland.

Now conservationists hope Aucklanders will do their bit to protect the endangered bird.

The species is endangered, but these kiwi are bringing hope for the future.

"It's the first time I've even seen a kiwi," says conservation minister Tim Groser. "I've taken my children through darkened places in Rotorua trying to see these little beggars, but I've never succeeded in seeing one until today."

Volunteers have spent five years getting the island ready so that he could, clearing woods, planting trees and, most importantly, ridding the land of rabbits, rats and other deadly pests.

The kiwi have travelled from Kapiti Island, near Wellington. They have more than 1,000, so could afford to spare a few.

Their claws are not to be taken lightly, but the kiwi were remarkably calm, despite spending 24 hours in a box.

The birds were settled in burrows and hidden away until nightfall, when the rangers will return to release them.

But it is what happens next that is crucial, with Aucklanders just a 30-minute boat trip away.

"It can all be destroyed quickly by people carelessly bringing their dogs, or worse still, a rat, onto the island, so please Aucklanders take care," says Mr Groser.

If conservation projects like this one succeed and continue, the number of these endangered birds should rise by 50 percent over the next 10 years.

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