Tiny kiwi chicks fly to new home onboard special Air New Zealand flight

The flight was part of the airline's partnership with DOC.
The flight was part of the airline's partnership with DOC. Photo credit: Air New Zealand

Three lucky kiwi chicks took flight yesterday when they travelled to their brand new home on Motuara Island via Nelson with Air New Zealand.

The flight was part of the airline's partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC).

The chicks were reared at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch and will now spend time on the predator free island in Queen Charlotte Sound. 

There's no cassava crisps on Motuara Island, but the chicks will be treated to an all-you-can-eat worm buffet.

When they are strong enough, they will be returned to Ōkārito in South Westland for release into the wild.

V.I.B's onboard.
V.I.B's onboard. Photo credit: Air New Zealand

Since 2012 DOC and Air NZ have partnered in relocating over 4000 native animals including kākāriki, takahē and pāteke. A number of conservation dogs vital in finding and keeping our most precious wildlife safe from predators have also been transported.

Air NZ's head of sustainability Meagan Schloeffel says the airline is incredibly proud to work with DOC moving wildlife around the country.

"Working with DOC has allowed us to support thousands of translocations and fund a range of biodiversity projects on the Great Walks around New Zealand. We take this responsibility seriously and are so grateful to be partnered with DOC to support them in the amazing work they do."

DOC ranger Iain Graham travelled with the chicks, which are rowi - the rarest of the five kiwi species. He says the transfer is part of Operation Nest Egg.

DOC says eggs or chicks are taken from the wild, hatched in captivity at a reserve like Willowbank, then raised at crèche sites such as the one on Motuara.  

"Once the chicks have grown to a weight of between 1 to 1.2 kg they're big enough to defend themselves from stoats. They can then be returned to the wild through this important partnership with Air NZ," Graham says.