New, genetically distinct Haast tokoeka kiwi subpopulation discovered

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The Minister for Conservation, Eugenie Sage, is celebrating the discovery of a new, genetically distinct subpopulation of the critically endangered Haast tokoeka by Department of Conservation (DOC) staff on the West Coast near Haast.

“Haast tokoeka is New Zealand’s most endangered kiwi. Finding an isolated population that we didn’t even know about is something to celebrate as it takes numbers up to an estimated 475 adult birds in the wild,” says Eugenie Sage

“The new subpopulation is the most significant kiwi discovery in recent times.

 “This discovery also underlines the importance of DOC’s monitoring and research programmes. We must know where, and how, our threatened species are living to determine the best ways to protect and restore their populations.”

The discovery of these kiwi will increase Haast tokoeka numbers by up to five per cent and add diversity to the Haast tokoeka gene pool.

DOC staff were working through acoustic records last year, captured through DOC’s national monitoring programme when they found a kiwi call from outside the known ranges of Haast tokoeka in South Westland.

DOC field team investigated this report earlier this year and they detected at least 16 birds and put radio-transmitters on six.

Genetic analysis of their feathers showed they were from the Haast tokoeka family, with some clear differences that could provide important genetic contributions to the critically small Haast tokoeka population.

“Now we need to decide how to protect these precious kiwi, using our best information on predator control and other protection methods.

Minister Sage says that DOC will work in partnership with mana whenua, represented by Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio, to protect the newly discovered Haast tokoeka population.

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