Rare kiwi gets new home

A new wildlife centre that offers the best chance to see New Zealand’s rarest rowi kiwi will open at Franz Josef, on the West Coast of the South Island next month.  The new West Coast Wildlife Centre has been developed in partnership with the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC), and will also serve as an official breeding facility for the rare birds.

Rowi – also known as the Okarito brown kiwi – are only found in the Franz Josef area and with fewer than 400 birds left in the wild, are the world’s rarest kiwi.  Rowi chicks are vulnerable to introduced predators such as stoats which kill birds and eat their eggs.

Rowi kiwi can live for up to 100 years. The female lays a large egg that can be equal to up to 20% of body weight.

Only identified as an individual species in 1994, rowi differ from other kiwi in several ways. They are grey with white patches on their heads, and their feathers are softer than the coarse feathers of other kiwi species.

Although rowi kiwi are bred at other New Zealand wildlife centres, the new West Coast Wildlife Centre will be the official home to the species’ breeding and incubation programme and the only place the public will be able to view the birds in their natural surroundings.

A natural forest walkthrough and viewing area within the indoor centre will provide visitors with an easy, all-weather option to view kiwi and still experience the New Zealand bush.

Franz Josef is a glacier located on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
The glacier is 12 kilometres long and together with the Fox Glacier which lies 20 kilometres to the South, it is unique in the fact that it descends from the Southern Alps to just 240 metres above sea level.

The area surrounding the two glaciers is designated a World Heritage Site.

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