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Kiwis up close: Doing our part for New Zealand’s native bird

Heath Barclay, General Manager Consumer Business and Marketing,
Bridgestone New Zealand Limited
New Zealanders are famous for being called kiwis, but if you ever want to actually see one of our namesake birds, you have to go to the zoo, press your face up against the glass and hope he or she comes out of hiding at the precise moment you are standing there. This past September, however, I was given a privilege that few other kiwis (the human ones) have enjoyed: I got to touch a real live kiwi bird.
Even more special was what I was doing with said kiwi. Bridgestone New Zealand Limited is a sponsor of the Motuora Restoration Society, who are rebuilding a native ecosystem and introducing threatened species onto this beautiful island in the Hauraki Gulf. They invited me, as a representative of Bridgestone, to participate in a very important day: the release of young kiwis into the wild on Motuora. This is a project sponsored by BNZ in partnership with the Department of Conservation
I woke up early in the morning to catch the 9am ferry from Sandspit to Motuora. Joining us on board were three, three week-old kiwis, hatched and raised at Auckland Zoo and ready to be released. Because Motuora is a totally pest-free island, it’s the perfect ‘kiwi crèche’ – a halfway house for kiwis, if you like. Our kiwis will be spending a year on Motuora, safe from dogs, cats and other predators. Once they are big and strong enough to defend themselves (around one year old or a kilogram in weight), they are reintroduced into the ‘real’ wild, helping to bolster Northland’s threatened kiwi population.
I was transferred from our large boat into an inflatable boat to arrive on the island as there’s no wharf and then the kiwis were taken up to the release site. Once they were out of their cages, I got to touch them and take photographs, which was a thrill! They were then released into their little hideouts with a protective handful of grass placed in the entry to each one, to ensure darkness after their transport ordeal. Come night they pushed their way through the door and ventured out to explore and make their own nests.
The kiwi release was part of Bridgestone’s ongoing relationship with the Motuora Restoration Society. Last year, we helped the society with the crucial work of planting trees on the island, something which we also hope to continue into the future. While our contribution was just a small one, all the small contributions add up: this year, the society planted their three hundred thousandth tree.
Ray Lowe, the Chairman of the Motuora Restoration Society, told us how much he appreciated our support. “We manage the island, which means paying full time staff and as a voluntary organisation, raising funds is always hard,” he said. “Having Bridgestone as an on-going sponsor is an enormous help.”