Department of Conservation (DOC) and kiwi protection groups are urging dog owners to train their pets to avoid kiwi, after recent reports of dead Coromandel brown kiwi were discovered in three locations: Tairua, Whenuakite, and Matarangi.
The birds killed at Tairua and Whenuakite have been confirmed as the victims of dog attacks through DNA testing.
“We need dog owners to keep their animals under control at all times – tied up or contained at night,” said Mailee Stanbury, DOC biodiversity senior ranger.
“Dog owners can also do the right thing to protect our precious kiwi by arranging for their pets to have kiwi avoidance training.
“Coromandel experiences an influx of summer visitors, and if they’re bringing their dogs to the peninsula, kiwi avoidance training is really valuable to help protect these taonga species.
“Remember kiwi can now be found in residential areas as well as bush and farmland on the Coromandel.”
Dog owners cannot take their animals on public conservation land in Whenuakite – the only completely protected kiwi zone in DOC’s Hauraki District.
Sheila Westley, a Coromandel-based Kiwi avoidance dog trainer who has been delivering the training courses for dogs and owners for several years, says kiwi have a strong scent and are very attractive to dogs.
“In training, we have found even the most loyal and obedient dog is drawn to kiwi scent when its owner is distracted.”
When chased, kiwi will run from a dog, but their anatomy – in particular, weak chests due to a lack of flight muscles – means they can suffer fatal injuries very easily. An inquisitive dog can push a kiwi against a tree within a few minutes of inattention by a dog owner.
“Roaming dogs are the biggest threat faced by our kiwi,” says Diane Hinds, a trustee for Whenuakite Kiwi Care.
“We find this very disturbing and frustrating as we spend many hours trapping and protecting kiwi. The impact of roaming dogs on kiwi is very disheartening to our community conservation project.”
DOC and community conservation groups are offering kiwi aversion training this summer, and dog owners can contact the Kauaeranga Visitor Centre on +64 7 867 9080 to book into a session. The training takes about 10 minutes and is free.