Essay: Breeds of Kiwi

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  • Subject area(s): Zoology essays
  • Reading time: 3 minutes
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  • Published on: February 21, 2020
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  • Number of pages: 2
  • Breeds of Kiwi
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The Southern Brown Kiwi (Tokoeka) is a species of Kiwi found in the far South of New Zealand. It is grouped into 2 subspecies; the first is somewhat common (population of 20,000) and is found on Stewart Island, and the second is found in the southwest of the South Island, with a population of 7,000 altogether. There are different populations of this subspecies found in Fiordland (north and south distinctively) and another near Haast. The ones from Haast are generally smaller. Haast is an area in the south of the West Coast region, named after famous German geologist Julius von Haast, who was significant in early geological surveys of New Zealand, and also founded the Canterbury Museum. The group of Tokoeka found near Haast (Haast Tokoeka) are critically endangered, with a population of less than 300.
The Haast Tokoeka are based in Haast, in the south of the West Coast region. The Tokoeka have a range of habitats suitable, for example, the Stewart Island Tokoeka are sometimes found in sand dunes. In Haast, the Haast Tokoeka tend to live near mountains, in grasslands, shrublands, and sub-tropic forests. They prefer to live in denser vegetation, where they make their burrows. In these habitats, they will eat small invertebrates, insects, worms, grubs, seeds, and larvae. The Haast Tokoeka also has predators, like possums, stoats, ferrets, dogs, and cats, which will attack the Tokoeka (including juvenile Tokoeka). The stoats and possums will also eat the eggs. The Haast Tokoeka is a nocturnal bird (meaning it is active during the night), and it’s believed that this is to avoid predators.
The Haast Tokoeka does belong to the bird class, although it is one of few that cannot fly. The Kiwi genus has the scientific name Apteryx (Greek for “without wings”). It wasn’t necessary for this bird to fly, as its habitat, in dense vegetation, has most of its food on the ground, as well as the burrows they nest in. Most birds have hollow bones, so that it is lighter, and can fly easier. Because the Haast Tokoeka doesn’t need to fly, its bones contain marrow. The Haast Tokoeka’s eye is the smallest body mass (relative to body) of all birds. It has minor features to assist with the its nocturnal lifestyle. It isn’t necessary for the Haast Tokoeka to have bigger eyes, because they rely so little on eyesight. Haast Tokoeka have a highly developed sense of smell, which is uncommon in a bird, and they are the only birds with nostrils at the end of their beaks. They are said to be able to find their prey without seeing or feeling them, but solely through their scent.
Before human settlement, the Tokoeka didn’t just used to be found in Fiordland, Haast, and Stewart Island, they were also found more throughout the south and east of the South Island, going as far north as North Canterbury. After humans settled here, they introduced predators to their habitat. This is a leading cause to their endangerment, as 50% of Kiwis fail to hatch out of their egg, and after being born, only 90% survive to the age of 6 months. Another reason the population is struggling is because the Haast Tokoeka breed slowly, a mating pair will lay no more than 1 egg a year. On top of that, a mating pair will often stick together throughout their lives. With the goal of preventing the decreasing population of the Haast Tokoeka, the Department of Conservation (DOC) have set up a sanctuary of 11,000 hectares, 25 km south of the Haast township. This area covers 85% of the area that the Haast Tokoeka live in. The Department of Conservation (with the Bank of New Zealand, and the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society) have also set up Operation Nest Egg, which is a programme where Kiwi eggs and juvenile are taken to be raised in captivity (in the Orokonui Ecosanctuary near Dunedin), and then returned to the wild when they are capable of defending themselves. This heightens their chances of survival from 5% to 65%. It is predicted that the population of Haast Tokoeka will grow by 4.2% annually.

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