New Zealand’s famous kiwi birds suffer from dehydration, as drought affects many areas of the north of the country, and conservationists warn that chicks will also perish soon.
There are 68,000 kiwis left in New Zealand, but their number is decreasing at an annual rate of 2%. Millions of years ago, but attacks by dogs, cats, possums, ermine and rats have caused a great decline.
Now, hot summers breaking records threaten the bird that fights at high temperatures due to its thick layer of warm feathers.
Dry land and empty or stagnant water sources in parts of Northland, 170 km north of Auckland, are dehydrating, disorienting and vulnerable to attacks.
In Whangārei, parts of which have had low rainfall this summer, Kiwi conservationists are asking the locals to leave the birds in water tubs, who venture out of the bush looking for food and water.
But night searches put old non-flying birds at risk of being attacked by predators introduced or hit by traffic.
Others become disoriented when they leave the bush and get trapped in areas exposed to dawn, for which they are not prepared.
Rob Webb of the Whangārei native bird recovery center has found five severely dehydrated kiwifruits this summer; Two died He said birds need urgent help.
“You put the bird in the sun and you feel it after five minutes; you feel that its feathers are hot,” Webb told local media. “It’s like walking in the heat with a big winter coat on everything ready.”
The high summer temperatures have coincided with the breeding season of Northland brown kiwi, with especially vulnerable chicks.
Last year was the fourth hottest year ever recorded in New Zealand, and the Northland regional council said that many parts of the region were now “on the cusp” of the drought after record low rains in 2019.
There are water restrictions in some areas and no significant rainfall is forecast for the coming months.
Paul O’Shea, Kiwis administrator for Kiwi, a conservation group created to save the bird from extinction, said they are part of New Zealand’s identity and that their survival was paramount.
“New Zealanders are a shy and lonely group: the kiwi is a bird that we identify with,” said O’Shea.
“It is as vital to protect the kiwi in New Zealand as to protect the orangutan in Borneo, the Sumatran tiger in Indonesia and the panda in China. The loss of these species of the planet may not affect their daily lives, but it is a loss for the experience human. “
The chief scientific advisor of the conservation department, Hugh Robertson, said the effects of prolonged dry weather could have innumerable impacts on the region’s kiwi population, and included a delayed breeding season, only a group of eggs instead of two , and a limited ability to reproduce and care for young people due to their poor condition.
He said that the kiwis that left the rainforest to look for water were “unusual” because they get all their hydration by feeding on invertebrates. When venturing from the safety of the forest he exposed them to predators, and they also ran the risk of drowning “in steep ponds or in watering holes for the search for a drink of water.”