Rotoroa Island is helping grow little kiwi into big kiwi, thanks to a partnership between Auckland Zoo and the volunteer conservation group Thames Coast Kiwi Care. As part of Operation Nest Egg, we’re all working together to nurture and protect the little brown Coromandel kiwi—the rarest of the four populations of brown kiwi.

Eggs collected by volunteers from an intensively trapped area of forest in Te Mata were incubated at Auckland Zoo before being released on Rotoroa Island in 2015. And the predator-free sanctuary of Rotoroa Island has proven to be a great place to grow up for five healthy 'teenage' kiwi, who headed home to Te Mata in the Coromandel in March.

Rotoroa Island chair Barrie Brown says seeing Rotoroa Island provide a haven for chicks, and then seeing them return to the wild as young adult birds, is hugely rewarding. "It's a testament to the hard work of a great many people; it's a real community conservation effort."

Thames Coast Kiwi Care (TCKC) chair Richard Moyle said it was a great day for his dedicated team of volunteers. "The return of kiwi to Te Mata is truly a milestone for our small volunteer organisation, which operates largely out of sight of public gaze. Future generations of kiwis can only be grateful for the generous and ongoing assistance of Auckland Zoo, Rotoroa Island Trust and the Department of Conservation in making our colony of Coromandel brown kiwi a self-sustaining population."

Auckland Zoo birds keeper Natalie Clark has been involved in the full life-cycle of the birds-from egg collection through to incubation, hatching, rearing, releasing the chicks and being part of the mustering team, to locating and rounding up the kiwi for release.

"We've put these little chicks on Rotoroa and within five months they've tripled in size," says Natalie. "It's been an incredible team effort to get to this day, with our Rotoroa colleagues providing a safe home for the birds to flourish. It now feels great to be bringing these birds back to Te Mata where the TCKC volunteers are putting so much work into trapping.

"As long as holiday makers and Coromandel locals keep their dogs on a lead when they're in kiwi country, we have a chance to save these special birds and see them thrive."

To date, more than 35 kiwi have been released onto Rotoroa Island, with 5 returned to Te Mata and 3 translocated to Motutapu Island. The 2017-18 kiwi breeding season is underway and public are welcome to join us for kiwi releases; stay up to date with all our upcoming releases by keeping an eye on our website or liking us on Facebook.