Posted on 29th August, 2016

Avoidance training day at Tawapou

After many years of hard work by people like Mike Camm and the many others involved in the Tutukaka Land Care Group, kiwi numbers in our district have been steadily increasing. Many locals now report hearing kiwi and a few luckily ones have seen them when outside at night.

It is always sad when hearing about kiwi deaths and unfortunately several birds have been killed by cars while crossing the road. This is another indication of the rise in local kiwi numbers. You can no longer guarantee that all brown fury looking things crossing the road are possums, we need to identify our targets carefully.

Kiwi in unmanaged areas have declined at an alarming rate. Ninety five percent of kiwi chicks in these areas are killed in the first six months, not much of a life when you consider they can live for more than 40 years. In many places they have disappeared altogether. It is not the loss of habitat that is the kiwi’s worst enemy but the introduction of cats, stoats, ferrets, weasels and dogs. Some experts regard dogs as the biggest killers of kiwi.

A control method that has helped teach dogs to not go after kiwi is avoidance training. Dogs are taken on a leash past kiwi scent and if they show interest are given a small electric shock, most dogs quickly learn to ignore this scent when taken past a second time. Dog aversion is generally very successful but all dogs should still be kept under control at all times.

A dog going through the kiwi avoidance training.

Any dog is capable of killing a kiwi!!

Why is it important to train your Dog?

Kiwi are especially attractive to dogs, they have a strong distinctive irresistible smell. Because they live on the ground and don’t fly, kiwi can’t escape a dog. Some dogs seek kiwi out and can kill off a whole population one-by-one. Other dogs may just grab a kiwi because they’re curious about what it is, but this will still kill the bird, breaking its ribs and causing internal injuries. Even soft-mouthed dogs do fatal damage because kiwi don’t have a breastbone.

Although most kiwi shelter during the day, that doesn’t mean they are safely tucked away from dogs in a long burrow. Some daytime shelters may simply be under Nikau or fern fronds, or in a clump of pampas or bracken. You may think your dog is after possums, but it could be chasing kiwi. When in or near kiwi country always keep all dogs tied up or caged at night.

If you must take your dog into kiwi country:

  • Make sure it’s obedient and trained when a pup to leave all birds alone.
  • Feed it well so it’s not hungry.
  • Consider getting it branded, microchipped or ear tattooed in case it gets lost.

If hunting in or near kiwi country:

  • Don’t take dogs that wander off or hunt at long range.
  • Use radio tracking collars on all dogs if possible.
  • Never use dogs for night hunting, as kiwi are most active then.
  • Take a small pack of proven, reliable dogs, not lots of inexperienced dogs.

Any dog no matter what breed whether big or small is capable of killing kiwi!

Her job was to chase the kiwi out of the yard just on dark and close the gate before they dug up the garden.

Guy Bowden

My mother tells a lovely story told to her by elderly lady who grew up in a house next to the fire station on Waiotoi road Ngunguru, as a child it was her job to chase the kiwi out of the yard just on dark and close the gate before they dug up the garden

The first Kiwi Aversion Training Day at Tawapou was on Sunday 22nd May 2016, it was a huge success with 49 dogs from the Tutukaka Coast put through the avoidance training programme by Tom Donovan with the help of his wife Karina.

As dogs need to be re-trained to make sure it keeps remembering to avoid kiwi we hope to have ongoing training days. The certificate the dog gets on its first training day is valid for up to 12 months- it must be re- tested after this. If still avoiding kiwi, it can then be certified for up to two years before a re-test is required.

We are hoping to hold another training day very soon for those who missed out on Sunday. NEXT TRAINING DAY IS 2nd JULY 2017

For further information about aversion training click here