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A 30-year-old kiwi has said goodbye to his home at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua and been released into the wild for the first time.

Tahi, a North Island brown kiwi, was the first chick to hatch at Rainbow Springs as part of the captive management programme at Kiwi Encounter.

Assistant Kiwi Husbandry Manager Helen McCormick says although Tahi had been at Rainbow Springs since hatching in 1987, kiwi are very instinctive and able to transition from captivity to the wild. Like all the kiwi in Otanewainuku Forest, he will be monitored post-release.

“Tahi has been very loved by the team. For most of us, he was one of the first kiwi we cared for when we became involved with kiwi conservation.

“It’s certainly bittersweet – but it’s great to know that he’s going into the wild where he can roam free around a predator-controlled forest.”

Tahi was today (2 June 2017) released into Otanewainuku Forest by a group that included Ms McCormick and representatives from Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust and Kiwi Transportable Homes, which has sponsored kiwi for many years.

Tahi was released into the wild because he was such a good kiwi dad and was “becoming over represented in the gene pool of captive kiwi”.

“We released him into an area where there are two female kiwi without mates, with the hope that he will establish a territory, find a mate and incubate more eggs in the wild.”

While at Kiwi Encounter, Tahi contributed to the successful hatching of 20 chicks. He was also a “foster dad” to about 16 eggs.

Ms McCormick says Kiwi Encounter also released a male kiwi, aged 37, into the wild in 2015 and he had since bred successfully.

There are 14 kiwi remaining at Kiwi Encounter that are part of the captive management programme.