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Tragedy at Pukaha


Five kiwis dead – victims of lockdown
Manager says ‘it is like losing our own family’

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Five kiwis have been killed by a predator at Pukaha National Wildlife Centre, after weeks of heavily reduced trapping due to the covid-19 lockdown.

On Thursday, the centre said, “It is with great sadness that Pukaha confirmed today that it is currently dealing with a significant predation event in the reserve.”

The team experienced a “significant spike” in the number of predators on the landscape, after the long, dry spring and summer, now only just abating.

This, combined with the reduced trapping due to Level 4 lockdown, represented ideal conditions for the predators targeting the flightless kiwi to thrive.

“Trapping in and around the reserve, in January, February and early March, had resulted in the capture of 24 ferrets, 26 stoats, one weasel and 35 feral cats,” Pukaha said.

“This is a higher-than-normal catch tally for Pukaha and our partners, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Horizons Regional Council.

“Given the high catch tally, Pukaha had been investing heavily in extra specialised predator control work before the covid-19 lockdown brought trapping to a halt.

“Pukaha was hopeful that the worst of the mustelid season had passed when we went into lockdown.”

But the centre’s greatest fears were realised earlier this week, when staff and volunteers went into the reserve to check on a number of kiwi, only to find five dead.

The initial post-mortem was conducted by Massey University Veterinary Hospital, and concluded that the death was due to head trauma, likely caused by ferrets.

“The discovery of dead kiwi is heartbreaking for everybody at Pukaha and for all of our community who support this important conservation project,” Pukaha said.

“The rangers who hatch and care for the birds prior to release, the volunteers who service traps, and the entire Pukaha team, carry an enormous responsibility as kaitiaki of this beautiful taonga and its sacred wildlife inhabitants.

“Pukaha, with the support of the Department of Conservation, is working day and night, intensively trapping the reserve, including the use of a variety of lures, traps and trapping methods to put a stop to
the predations.

“We can’t be sure there aren’t more ferrets out there causing damage so these efforts will continue until Pukaha is confident they are gone.”

Emily Court is the manager of Pukaha, and has been deeply affected by the tragedy.

“When our birds are killed, it is like losing our own family members,” Court said.


  1. Only on e thing will stop this carnage of our precious bird life at Mount Bruce Pukaha and that is a predator proof fence! Zealandia in Wellington has set the benchmark for predator proofing, and mount Bruce needs to seriously start preparing for it This slaughter of native birds at Mount Bruce is nothing new. You cant control predators by traps and bait alone!
    Alan Wilde.

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