Sunday, January 12, 2014

10 January 2014: Rowi Kiwi project in Franz Josef and Queenstown

Jim Livingstone, Department of Conservation Senior Ranger of Conservation Services, spoke to us this morning about the Rowi kiwi (Apteryx rowi), a relatively-recently recognized species of kiwi, whose population is only about 400-strong.  The entire population lives in the region just north of Franz Josef and is monitored closely to ensure its persistence. 

We learned how conservation scientists operate the restoration effort through descriptions of the field and lab techniques used in the project.  Adult kiwis are first captured after drawing them toward ‘squak boxes’ (radios playing kiwi vocalizations), then with the help of leg radiotransmitters, the activity patterns of the kiwi and their locations can be ascertained.  Once it’s known that an adult is stationary, but alive, the scientists check whether the bird is incubating an egg.  If an egg is present, it is ‘rescued’ and brought back to the lab for incubation and hatching.  Eggs and juvenile birds are raised in Franz Josef’s Westcoast Wildlife Centre, and then the young birds are shipped to Motuara Island (Marlborough Sound) to live until they reach the predator-resistant size of +1kg, after which point they are released into the South Westland region.  Our students were very attentive to Jim’s presentation and had some very insightful questions to ask following the presentation.  After getting to touch a Rowi kiwi specimen, our group visited the Westcoast Wildlife Centre to learn a little more about the Rowi kiwi and to see three live juvenile Rowi playing in an observation pen. I know I’m biased, but it was pretty cool seeing the kiwi ‘kids’ teasing each other in the pen!

After our trip to the wildlife centre, we hopped into our trusty stallion of a van and headed south to Queenstown.  We traveled along the Haast River, a wide river valley with mountains reaching several thousand feet high along its borders, then passed through the precarious Haast Pass, which closes at 6pm each night due to a rock ‘slip’ (Kiwi for ‘landslide’) that is monitored by ‘rock spotters’ all day, and then into the Otago region.  We stopped to view and swim in the beautifully tranquil and aqua blue water of Lake Hawea.  If you didn’t know it already, we have some pretty proficient rock-skippers in our group!  By dinner, we arrived in Queenstown, the ‘adventure capital of the world’.

A break during the trip from Franz Josef to Queenstown: Lake Hawea.

Steve Maccleod (Business, 2016), David Hobbs (Business, 2016), and Jack Capetola (Chemistry, 2016) take a dip in beautiful Lake Hawea!

On the precipice of adventure: we stopped to take photos atop a beautiful vista high-above Lake Wakatipu, site of Queenstown, the 'adventure capital of the world'!

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