The Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust is a community based conservation Trust formed in 2002 by Te Puke Forest and Bird, and other members of the community concerned at the decline of North Island brown kiwi in the Otanewainuku Forest.
The Trust operates under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Conservation (DOC), who administers the land and provides technical advice and guidance on pest control and translocation of birds.
Everyone involved is a volunteer, working to protect kiwi and other fauna and flora of the forest. Activities range from the more physically demanding, such as maintaining a trap line through the bush and coming to workdays, to quieter pursuits such as guiding, fundraising, kiwi listening, helping with mail outs, sausage sizzles or simply sponsorship.
There are many introduced predators in the bush including rats, stoats, possums, ferrets, feral cats and dogs. Predator control at Otanewainuku Forest is a mix of trapping mustelids (stoats, ferrets and weasels) and feral cats, goat culling, and an annual bait station operation to reduce numbers of rats and possums just before the bird breeding season in late winter.
The total forest area is 1200 hectares, and volunteers maintain the stoat trap lines and bait stations which cover 935 hectares of forest to reduce pest numbers and give the best chance of our birds breeding in the forest.
While the kiwi and kokako are the main focus for predator control, all the other birds benefit too, along with bats, lizards and invertebrates. The flora also gains because fertile leaf litter, fruit and seeds are able to complete their vital life-cycle.
The Trust work with the kiwi breeding program Operation Nest Egg. They have a breeding pair of kiwi in the forest which have radio tracking devices, and fertilised kiwi eggs are taken to a specialised incubation facility at Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua to give them the best chance of survival. Here the chicks remain in a controlled environment for five to six months to become big enough (at least 1kg) to defend themselves against most predators once they are released. Volunteers also carry out kiwi listening surveys over 20 sites to estimate the numbers of mature kiwi within the Otanewainuku forest.
Otanewainuku also have kokako translocated from two other Bay of Plenty forests, Kaharoa and Rotoehu which are flourishing, as are many other native species such as robins, tomtits, kereru and native long-tail bats.
Volunteers spend time acting as guides for visitors, especially school parties. providing valuable education on native flora and fauna, and conservation efforts within New Zealand.