Conservation officers are strongly condemning irresponsible dog owners after a female kiwi bird was mauled to death on conservation land in Taranaki.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is once again imploring New Zealanders to keep their dogs under control following the death of the North Island brown kiwi, which had been viciously attacked and thrown down a bank.
"It's just so disappointing to see a large egg-carrying female taken out of the population," DOC biodiversity ranger Joe Carson said on Thursday.
Carson, who was off-duty at the time, discovered the deceased bird while she and her family were exploring the Pouiatoa Conservation Area in North Taranaki. After following pawprints and footprints along a track, the group came across a pile of feathers. The bird had bites along its body.
"In the wild, kiwi only have a 5 percent chance of survival to adulthood. This big, beautiful female bird had beaten the odds and survived - only to be taken out by a dog," Carson continued.
"It's an entirely avoidable death."
To enter conservation land, dog owners are required to carry a permit and put their dogs through aversion training, which is an effective way of deterring dogs from attacking kiwi.
"If dog owners take their dogs through kiwi aversion training and keep their dogs under control, the chances of this happening would be greatly reduced," Carson said.
"No one wants to be that person whose dog killed a kiwi."
Community conservation group, Experience Pūrangi, has an extensive trapping network in the Pouiatoa Conservation Area, helping protect kiwi and kōkako from rats and stoats. Experience Pūrangi Conservation Manager, Kat Strang, says the death of a kiwi is always a hard pill to swallow - but losing an adult, breeding kiwi really sets the population back.
"That female could have produced four chicks this year, and again next year, and so on - but we've lost that from this population now," she said.
"Our team works hard trying to remove invasive predators from the habitat so our kiwi have a fighting chance, and to lose a kiwi in a way that could have been easily prevented is incredibly disappointing and one that hits hard."
Dog owners who take any dog into a no-access area, take unpermitted dogs into the Pouiatoa Conservation Area, or breach the conditions of their permit may be fined up to $800 or face prosecution.
No dogs are allowed in Egmont National Park.
Charges can also be filed under the Dog Control Act when there is evidence a kiwi has been killed by a dog. The maximum penalty the court can hand down in these cases is a $20,000 fine or up to three years in jail, and an order for the dogs to be destroyed.
Anyone who sees roaming dogs on public conservation land is urged to report it to 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).
People interested in Kiwi aversion training for their dogs can phone DOC Ngāmotu/New Plymouth 06 759 0350.