Two precious newly hatched kiwi chicks got the royal once-over and a seal of approval when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited the Rainbow Springs National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua.
The royal couple had the honour of naming the tiny kiwis as Koha (gift) and Tihei (sneeze of life). Not only was it the first time the Duchess had seen a real kiwi but she also revealed that her favourite toy as a child was a stuffed kiwi given to her by her Mum.
Their Royal Highnesses, who visited the hatchery to learn about kiwi conservation, saw a chick that had hatched just 15 minutes before they arrived and watched a health check being performed on two chicks.
Koha and Tihei are te reo Māori names – Koha meaning ‘gift’, and Tihei from the saying ‘tihei mauriora’ which means ‘the sneeze of life’.
Koha came to the hatchery from Project Kiwi on the Coromandel Peninsula. The Duke and Duchess felt the name was appropriate as it was the most well-behaved of the two chicks, whereas the wriggly one, from Purangi Kiwi Project in Taranaki, was jokingly referred to as a ‘’naughty kiwi’’ by the Duke.
Michelle Impey, executive director of Kiwis for kiwi was honoured to be one of the kiwi handlers for the day, and to spend some time with the Duke and Duchess, alongside National Kiwi Hatchery Husbandry Manager Emma Bean. Michelle said the royals were genuinely interested and enjoyed their up-close encounter.
“They asked a lot of questions about kiwi. The Duchess said her favourite toy as a child was a stuffed kiwi, a gift from her mum, and that she was really excited to finally see a real one.”
As part of a brief overview of kiwi conservation, Michelle Impey explained to the Duke and Duchess how this was part of a broader strategy to increase the numbers of endangered kiwi chicks in predator-free creches (kōhanga sites), and once they safely grow and start reproducing, their young can be relocated every year to predator free areas to start new populations.
Tihei will return to the wild in Taranaki (on the west coast of the North Island), but Koha will make its way to Motutapu Island, a kiwi creche in the Hauraki Gulf (near Auckland), as part of this strategy.
“We are taking kiwi production to a whole new level and increasing the ‘supply chain’ of kiwi so they can benefit from the existing fenced sanctuaries and predator-free offshore islands. Over the next five years we plan on returning more than 1000 kiwi to these habitats. From that point, we can start relocating the young to create new wild populations.
“We hope that by having the Duke and Duchess visit The National Kiwi Hatchery today, it will help to tell the story to the world of the work being done to save the kiwi. There is great work being done by amazing people, backed by an achievable strategy that will deliver results. We can bring kiwi back.”
The visit concluded with Ms Impey gifting a series of Kuwi the Kiwi children’s books, authored by Kat Merewether, to the couple.
About Kiwis for Kiwi
Kiwis for kiwi, a fully independent charity aims to protect kiwi and their natural habitat, ensuring the species flourish for generations to come. It allocates funds to hands-on kiwi projects, raises sponsorship dollars, increases public awareness of the plight of kiwi and works alongside kiwi experts to provide resources, advice and best practice guidance to all those working to save kiwi. In partnership with Department of Conservation, Kiwis for kiwi supports the national Kiwi Recovery Programme and the national goal of growing each species of kiwi by 2% per year.