Three kiwi chicks feel the wind beneath their tiny wings

Air New Zealand helped three lucky kiwi chicks take the flight of their dreams to their brand-new home on Motuara Island via Nelson yesterday. 

As part of the airline’s partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC), the beautiful national bird took off from Christchurch at 1245, landing safely in Nelson in time for lunch. 

The rowi chicks were reared at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch and are being transferred to Motuara Island, a predator-free island in the incredible Queen Charlotte Sound. Once there, they will spend their time snacking at the all-you-can-eat worm buffet, until they are strong enough to return to Ōkārito in South Westland for release into the wild.

Since 2012 DOC and Air New Zealand have partnered in relocating over 4,000 native animals including kākāriki, takahē and pāteke. A number of conservation dogs vital in finding and keeping our most precious wildlife safe from predators have also been transported. 

Air New Zealand head of sustainability Meagan Schloeffel says the airline is incredibly proud to work so closely with DOC to move wildlife around the country. 

“Working with DOC has allowed us to support thousands of translocations and fund a range of biodiversity projects on the Great Walks around New Zealand. We take this responsibility seriously and are so grateful to be partnered with DOC to support them in the amazing work they do.” 

DOC Ranger Iain Graham will travel to Motuara with the chicks, which are rowi, the rarest of the five kiwi species. He says the transfer is part of Operation Nest Egg.

“Eggs or chicks are rescued from the wild, hatched in captivity at a reserve like Willowbank, then raised at crèche sites such as the one on Motuara.  Once the chicks have grown to a weight of between 1 to 1.2 kg they’re big enough to defend themselves from stoats. They can then be returned to the wild through this important partnership with Air New Zealand.”

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