There are about 68,000 kiwi left in all of New Zealand and we are losing 2% of our unmanaged kiwi every year. The brown kiwi is one of our most common kiwi species; however, the population is steadily declining by about 2–3% a year. Without on-going support, experts estimate brown kiwi will be extinct in the wild within two generations.
Today a lot of dedicated people help to prevent kiwi from becoming extinct. Rainbow Springs first became involved in kiwi when they were displayed here in 1975, allowing us to show and educate visitors about these unusual creatures who have whiskers like a cat, massive feet, and who can’t fly. Later, in 1995, Rainbow Springs joined the Operation Nest Egg (O.N.E) programme when we received our first egg from the Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary. With the increase in hatching success rate, the numbers of eggs brought to Rainbow Springs rapidly increased over the first few years. A decision was therefore made to re-invest in a new facility that would be open for public admission and enable New Zealanders and international visitors to see the great work being undertaken.
In 2004, Kiwi Encounter was opened at Rainbow Springs. Over the years the hatchery has grown to become the largest and most successful kiwi hatching facility in the world, successfully incubating and hatching brown kiwi eggs from around the North Island. We now receive eggs from 15 sanctuaries and reserves around the North Island and have hatched over 1650 eggs at the Kiwi Encounter facility. Our work since 1995 has helped the North Island population of the Brown kiwi considerably and the opening of Kiwi Encounter has also provided an ideal facility for the continuation of kiwi research.
How does Kiwi Encounter help kiwi?
Kiwi Encounter's role in kiwi conservation is vital. Most kiwi chicks don't survive in the wild due to predators such as stoats, so DOC (Department of Conservation) staff monitor male kiwi and when they have established incubation of eggs in the field, the eggs are lifted from the burrows and brought to us partially incubated. We then complete the incubation artificially (kiwi eggs take approximately 78 days to incubate in artificial conditions, slightly longer when in the wild) and raise the chicks to 1kg in weight. They are then returned to the wild by D.O.C. staff. Our expert husbandry staff are now assisting with protocols for the Department of Conservation and other institutions. Kiwi Encounter also plays an important part in helping with kiwi research and is considered to be leading the country in terms of research and scientific data collation. The team is currently looking into making improvements to the artificial kiwi diet, lighting in nocturnal enclosures, the role of bacteria in egg shell contamination and coccidia (gut parasites) treatment trials.
What are the benefits of Kiwi Encounter for kiwi conservation?
1. We have greater capacity to handle more eggs and chicks.
2. A team of qualified staff and specialist equipment to do more conservation work.
3. Rainbow Springs’ Kiwi Encounter is a wonderful educational facility for the advocacy of kiwi.
4. People visiting Rainbow Springs’ Kiwi Encounter will now be helping to fund this facility thereby directly contributing to kiwi conservation.
Every tour booked is a 100% donation to our kiwi conservation program...and you'll get to see how we're helping kiwi at the largest and most successful kiwi hatchery in the world. The cost of this tour is $10pp and it can only be purchased in conjunction with a Rainbow Springs day pass or annual pass.