First wild kiwi babies in a century sends shocks through New Zealand
Wellington, New Zealand - New Zealand conservationists celebrated Tuesday after discovering kiwi chicks had been born in the wild around Wellington for the first time in more than a century.
The fluffy, flightless bird with a long distinctive beak is a beloved national symbol, but this animal is a rarity.
Kiwi are among the most vulnerable birds in New Zealand. The Department of Conservation estimates there are only about 26,000 brown kiwis left.
Last year, the Capital Kiwi Project released a few dozen adult birds into the wild near Wellington, hoping to reestablish a population in the area.
They've now discovered four chicks, who are believed to be the first ones born in the hills of Wellington in more than 150 years.
"This is very special for the team which has been working hard for the last few years," project founder Paul Ward told AFP.
The chicks are a "massive milestone for our goal of building a wild population of kiwi on Wellington's back doorstep," he added.
Four kiwi chicks were discovered in New Zealand
The kiwi hatchlings were discovered by a project volunteer, who was shocked when he put his hand in a nest under a tree last week and pulled out a freshly hatched kiwi chick, Ward said.
"He was very pleasantly surprised when another shot past him. We found two last week and then another two today."
Conservationists hope the fledgling chicks to reach a fighting weight of one and a half pounds soon, Ward said, to be large enough to ward off stoats, their natural predators. An adult kiwi weighs about six and a half pounds.
"We'll go out and give them some extra worms for Christmas to put on weight," Ward joked.
"We are only monitoring a quarter of the 63 (adult) birds which have been released, so it is likely there will be more (chicks) out in the wild," he added. "We have high hopes these will be the first of many."
Cover photo: Collage: Screenshots/Instagram/capital.kiwi