The Kiwi House opened as a display centre in 1976. Ten years later Te Puia began receiving injured kiwi, often found in traps or on roadsides. It became something of a haven, with a remarkable recovery rate for its injured birds. Based on this success, a kiwi breeding programme was introduced in 1999.
The kiwi mates for life and will never take another partner. A disproportionately large egg makes laying quite an ordeal for the female, while the male, who incubates the egg, will often abandon it. Breeding pairs are quarantined, but non-breeding kiwis like Kenny and Nohi (our display birds) play an equally important role in the survival of their species as they increase public awareness about the plight of our adorable yet endangered national icon.
Because kiwi are very sensitive to light and movement, photography is not permitted in the nocturnal Kiwi House.
Kiwi Breeding Programme
In 2002 Te Puia welcomed a new member of the whānau (family). Te Iti Pounamu (‘little treasure’) was the first kiwi to be born in captivity in New Zealand without human intervention or artificial incubation. This was a significant event for the breeding programme at Te Puia’s Kiwi Conservation Centre.
Over the next two years, two more chicks were hatched at the centre’s protected natural habitat - again without artificial incubation. In keeping with the Māori tradition of respecting nature, the centre ensures that its kiwi have virtually no human contact. ‘We wanted to give nature a chance to take care of its own,’ says kiwi keeper, Anne Bryers. ‘As kaitiaki, (guardians),’ explains Anne, ‘our role is to provide a safe, natural place rather than impose our ideals. We nurture gently and from afar.’
She and a second kiwi keeper are the only staff allowed to enter the kiwi breeding habitat and only do so in emergencies. In one instance, an egg was retrieved and sent off site for artificial incubation after it was abandoned. It survived and a small female kiwi was hatched in 2004. She was named MACI Dearheart at her new home, in recognition of Te Puia’s work as the Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (MACI).
MACI, Te Iti Pounamu and their kin are Te Puia’s contribution to the survival of our national taonga (treasure) and it is a role our keepers take to heart. Conservation is a priority at Te Puia and our other unique and endangered birds are protected in the natural surroundings of the area.