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Roaming kiwi leaves mark of approval on new footpaths

Adult male kiwi Whiuwhiu's footprint on a new footpath in Whakatāne

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Whakatāne District Council has recently widened and sealed a road and added footpaths but the footprints went undetected until last week.
Photo: LDR

Whakatāne has been known as the Kiwi Capital of the World for over a decade, and now it has its own walk of fame.

One of its resident kiwi has recently stamped his mark on the town. Adult male Whiuwhiu lives beside Kōhī Point Lookout Road. When Waiotahi Contractors were creating the footpaths a few months ago, Whiuwhiu secretly left three footprints in the concrete.

December 4/processed - Adult male kiwi Whiuwhiu caught on nest cam

Whiuwhiu caught on nest cam.
Photo: LDR / Supplied

The footprints went undetected until last week, when Sue Laurent, who monitors the kiwi through the radio transmitter attached to his leg, spotted the faint footprints in the new concrete.

Whakatāne District Council has recently widened and sealed the road and added footpaths. Construction began in September last year and has moved forward slowly, with one delay due to the same kiwi discovered to be sitting on eggs in an area where the contractors were excavating.

At the time, the roading project had to come to a halt while the Kiwi Trust team rescued the eggs.

Whakatāne District Council capital projects transportation team leader David Wathall said it was very special to see Whiuwhiu’s footprint immortalised in the new footpath.

“We’re truly the kiwi capital of the world here. We know that Whiuwhiu often hangs out in this area, so during construction of the new road and footpath, the council and Waiotahi Contractors were careful to ensure we didn’t inconvenience him in any way.

“We worked with the Whakatāne Kiwi Trust and the Department of Conservation to ensure he wouldn’t be disturbed and made sure he wasn’t nearby during some noisier periods of construction. After that, it’s good to see he’s stamped his approval on the new footpath.”

As well as the footprint that is set into the concrete, the Beacon observed muddy footprints Whiuwhiu has left on other parts of the new white footpath, which are less permanent, but show that he often crosses the road in different spots.

Female kiwi lay the eggs, but it is the male kiwi that incubates them. Laurent said Whiuwhiu was a particularly dedicated father and would often incubate three clutches of eggs a year.

He would sit on a clutch for about 70-80 days each time.

Kiwi Trust marketing co-ordinator Hilary Sheaff said while he was incubating eggs, he would leave the nest for about one or two hours each night, just to grab a quick bite to eat.

Kiwi Trust volunteers Ken and Sue Laurent with marketing and funding co-ordinator Hilary Sheaff point out the footprints with one of their kiwi monitoring aerials.

Ken and Sue Laurent with Hilary Sheaff point out the footprints with one of their kiwi monitoring aerials.
Photo: LDR / Troy Baker E3098-11

He picked up bits of stick and leaves and placed them over the entrance to his nest whenever he left.

Along with the kiwi footprints the Beacon observed a lot of rubber burn marks on both the new road and the footpath.

Laurent’s husband Ken, who is also a long-standing volunteer with the Kiwi Trust, said he was a bit worried about speeding drivers hitting the kiwi during one of his nightly wanderings and hoped that this evidence of his frequent crossings would encourage them to slow down for him.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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