An independent review of 25 kiwi deaths at Cape Sanctuary seven years ago will become part of a broader programme of work to set DOC up for success, the Department said yesterday.
Between 2016 and 2018, DOC received complaints about kiwi handling practices and a number of kiwi deaths at the Hawke’s Bay sanctuary.
Yesterday, the Department released an in-depth report commissioned by Director-General Penny Nelson, into the complaints made and how DOC managed Wildlife Act permits.
“DOC didn’t respond in the way I would expect myself, so I asked for this review to identify what improvements are still needed,” says Ms Nelson.
Independent reviewer, David Shanks found a range of factors contributed to 25 kiwi deaths at Cape Sanctuary in the summer of 2016/17, including staff turnover, a very dry summer, and predation at the Sanctuary. Mr Shanks found no evidence that the deaths were caused by overhandling.
However, the review found DOC’s systems were inadequate, and recommended significant improvements to the issuing, documentation, monitoring, and reporting of permissions under the Wildlife Act, as well as improving complaints management.
“DOC should have done better and we accept all the review’s recommendations. It’s our responsibility to protect kiwi and we need to do everything we can to help them thrive,” says Ms Nelson.
“We’re committed to making the changes within DOC that we need to. We’re already working on some recommendations and have a plan in place to implement the rest over the next one to two years.
“DOC has to be match fit for the important job it does, so my focus has been on strong leadership, a clear strategy, sharper operating structures, greater fiscal discipline and an unrelenting focus on conservation.
“Our programme of work will include reviewing existing wildlife authorities to make sure the right checks and balances are in place. We are also replacing our permissions database, improving training for DOC staff in monitoring roles, and strengthening our compliance approach.”
She said some of the recommendations have already been implemented, while others will take more time.
“We have already worked closely with Cape Sanctuary in the past seven years to improve the way kiwi are managed there.”
“Sanctuaries are important for kiwi conservation. In the wild, in areas without predator control, fewer than 5% of kiwi chicks survive to adulthood. Sanctuaries that creche kiwi chicks raise kiwi until they’re big enough to withstand predators and can be released into the wild.
“Cape Sanctuary, like many other sanctuaries, has helped increase the number of brown kiwi over the last 30 years.
“Kiwi do really well under close conservation management and as a result of good work, currently no kiwi is classified as critically endangered, but we must continue to be vigilant.
“By partnering with others, including private conservation entities, we better protect nature,” said Ms Nelson.