I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote

- Herman Melville



May 14, 2019

Bringing Kiwi Back to Wellington

As New Zealand announces a new plan to reverse the decline of the iconic kiwi bird, Wellingtonians are already lining up to save their emblematic bird.


Sean Verity

This article was made available to The Outdoor Journal via a press release by Tourism New Zealand.

As New Zealand announces a new plan to reverse the decline of the iconic Kiwi bird, Wellingtonians are already lining up to save their emblematic bird. Wellingtonians are known for their love of flat whites and their passion for the arts. But there’s a new pastime that’s rapidly growing in New Zealand’s capital and all around the country.

Assembling and setting traps for rats, stoats and other predators in their own backyards. It’s a somewhat unlikely hobby, but in Wellington alone, there are now more than 70 community groups involved in pest management.  They’re all aiming at making their home town the first predator-free capital city in the world and a paradise for native birds such as the tīeke (Saddleback), hihi (stitchbird), kākā, kākāriki and toutouwai (North Island robin). 

In Wellington alone there are now more than 70 community groups involved in pest management all aiming at making their home town the first predator-free capital city in the world. Photo by: Capital Kiwi

Ever since conservation project Zealandia created a fully fenced 225-hectare ecosanctuary within the city limits in 1999, native birdlife has returned to many suburbs and Wellingtonians have embraced their avian friends. The groups are part of a groundswell of community conservation initiatives sweeping New Zealand and delivering fantastic results.

“Where once it would have been a remarkable sight to see a single kākā (a boisterous native parrot) in the wilderness of our mountain ranges, we now have literally hundreds of them across Wellington city, screeching across city skies,” says self-confessed “bird nerd” Paul Ward. Buoyed by the birdsong orchestra he thought, “Why stop there? Let’s bring back New Zealand’s most iconic bird, the Kiwi.” “The only time I’d seen a Kiwi growing up was in a zoo, and that’s not right for our national taonga (treasure),” he insists. 

The flightless birds with hair-like feathers and the chopstick bill have been absent from Wellington for over a century due to the loss of their habitat and the spread of predators. Ward’s ambitious project Capital Kiwi hopes to lure Kiwi back to the Wellington region within the next decade. Approximately 4,400 traps will be set on 23,000 hectares of public and private land stretching from the outskirts of town to the coast.

“Kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime”

As long as stoats, ferrets and weasels are around, Kiwi chicks have hardly any chance of surviving their first year.  An average of 27 Kiwis are killed by predators each day according to charity ‘Kiwis for Kiwi’ which supports community-led initiatives around the country. They warn that at this rate “Kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime.” 

But projects in Rakiura / Stewart Island in the south of New Zealand, Whangarei Heads in the north and Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty have shown that with the involvement of the community as kaitiaki (guardians) it is possible to grow a wild Kiwi population. 

The project Capital Kiwi hopes to bring New Zealand’s iconic birds back to Wellington by setting more than 4,000 traps in the hills on the outskirts of the city. Photo by: Capital Kiwi.

Michelle Impey, from Kiwis for Kiwi explains that one of the challenges of Kiwi conservation is “getting people to understand and care about something they can’t see and don’t experience.”

Kiwis are nocturnal, and with only a few exceptions live far removed from cities, towns and villages. “Bringing Kiwi closer to where Kiwis live makes them top of mind, completely relevant, and creates a sense of ownership with those who are privileged enough to have them living on or near their land,” Impey adds. She hopes that the new project will create “a city of Kiwi conservationists” who feel a personal attachment to their national bird. 

In August 2018 the government’s Predator Free 2050 initiative, which aims to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators that threaten the nation’s natural wildlife by 2050, announced their support for Capital Kiwi, committing more than NZ$3.2 million over the next five years.  It may sound like a lot of money, but the other way of looking at this is “What is the cost if we don’t?” Ward ponders.

“Can we, as a nation of Kiwis, afford to let our national icon die and become extinct? What would that say about us as guardians of the taonga (treasure) that makes our country so special and unique?”


Ninety-year-old Ted Smith, who lives in the small seaside settlement of Makara just over the hills from Wellington, helped to kick off the project with the setting of the first trap in November. He and his local community started trapping in their backyards a decade ago which resulted in a remarkable increase in birdlife – tūī, kākā, kererū, pūkeko, kingfishers, quails and others. “If we allow Kiwi to die out then we deserve to be called idiots,” he says. Wellingtonians love the vision of having Kiwi rummaging through their gardens and Ward says he’s been overwhelmed with the offers of help and support from the community.  

“We want to see Kiwi come back into Wellington”

Capital Kiwi has received hundreds of emails from people keen to help. Schoolchildren are now monitoring tracking tunnels, mountain bikers and trail runners check reserve trap lines on lunchtime rides and families come together to build traps. If the eradication proves successful after three years, the Department of Conservation will look at translocating Kiwi to the hillsides. The hope is that in less than a decade, tourists will be able to post their Kiwi encounters on the outskirts of Wellington on social media, and locals will beam with pride at hearing the shrill call of the country’s iconic birds in their backyards. 

“I would love to be woken up by the sound of the Kiwi. We want to see Kiwi come back into Wellington,” the capital’s Major Justin Lester says. 

The Department of Conservation is backing Capital Kiwi too. “Getting Kiwi back into the hills of Wellington where people can hear them call is a great way to demonstrate what New Zealand could look like if we get rid of the stoats and ferrets,” DOC’s Jack Mace says. 

“It would certainly add another feather to Wellington’s cap as one of the best places to see New Zealand’s unique wildlife.”

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Cover Photo: New Zealand’s little spotted Kiwi at Zealandia Eco-sanctuary in Wellington. Photo by: Zealandia Eco-sanctuary


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May 30, 2019

Donald Trump and a History of Republican Environmentalism

On March 12th, 2019, President Trump signed the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act into law, thus designating 1.3 million acres of federal land as wilderness.



Brooke Hess

Yes, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate change agreement. And yes, Trump’s EPA has loosened toxic air pollution regulations. However, on March 12th, 2019, President Trump signed into law the largest wilderness protection bill since 2009. 1.3 million acres of federal land in California, Oregon, New Mexico, and Utah has been designated as wilderness by the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act.

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Rep. Debbie Dingell, D- Mich., signs S.47: The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House. | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

wilderness /ˈwɪldənɪs/ noun
an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region.

Howard Zahniser chose to define “wilderness” as “a place where Earth and its community of life are untrammelled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Designating this land as “wilderness” gives it the highest level of protection. No logging, no drilling, no mining, no roads, no cars. No mechanized vehicles or tools of any kind. The new bill protects 621 river miles, expands Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks, and establishes 375,000 new acres of wilderness in the Mojave Desert.

In Death Valley. Photo: Joseph Fronteras

So, yes, the Trump Administration has had a significant negative impact on our current environmental situation in ways that have been well documented. However, with the implementation of this new wilderness conservation law, maybe the administration is turning over a new leaf? After all, the Republican Party actually has a strong history of conservation and it’s important to remind ourselves of those things that we agree on…

President Ulysses S. Grant and The Yellowstone National Park

It was Republican President Ulysses S. Grant who signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law in 1872, the nation’s first National Park. Although others certainly deserve a mention, the new national park encompassed 2 million acres of remote and wild terrain, something that of course would require some management. Yet Congress failed to award and financial support for its management or protection. Instead, people such as Nathaniel Langford stepped forward and assumed the position of superintendent despite there being no pay.  Eventually, Langford established that with the arrival of a railway, visitors could be charged in an effort to acquire the necessary funds to administer the park.

“Dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”  – First page of the Yellowstone Park Act, 3/1/1872.

Yellowstone National Park Protection Act (1872). Photo by National Archives.

Some further excerpts taken from the act can be read on the National Park Service website.

Yellowstone Park. Photo: Christy Mason

President Theodore Roosevelt, the “Conservationist President”

Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, established the United States Forest Service, signed five National Parks into law, and proclaimed 18 new U.S. National Monuments with the signing of the 1906 U.S. Antiquities Act. All between 1901-1909. Roosevelt also established four game preserves, 51 bird reserves, and 150 National Forests.

“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Often considered the “conservationist president”, by the end of his time in office, Roosevelt had established 150 million acres of forestry land. In fact, Roosevelt was so firm in his stance of protecting the environment, that Congress began writing amendments with the purpose of preventing the President from reserving further land for protection.

“It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals — not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening.” – Theodore Roosevelt.

A list of all the public lands established by Theodore Roosevelt can be found on the National Park Service website.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND. Photo: Alleykat, NJ

President Richard Nixon and the National Environmental Policy Act.

In 1970, Republican President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act, requiring federal agencies to evaluate and assess their environmental impact.

Okay, this guy is far from being a conservationism hero, he once told Ford Motor Company chairman Henry Ford that environmentalists want to “go back and live like a bunch of damned animals. They’re a group of people that aren’t really one damn bit interested in safety or clean air. What they’re interested in is destroying the system.”

President Nixon signs the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on January 1, 1970. This Act established a U. S. national policy that required all federal agencies to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for activities that would significantly impact the quality of the human environment. Photo courtesy of the Nixon Presidential library.

However, in that same year (1970), Nixon also proposed and signed an executive order to create the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a federal government agency designed for environmental assessment, research, education, and protection. The EPA has authority over the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation And Recovery Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Additionally, the EPA helps to enforce and provide assistance to the Endangered Species Act, the Food Quality Protection Act, and the Pollution Prevention Act.

It was also President Nixon that signed some of those acts that the EPA has authority over, such as the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Created to protect animals that are under threat due to the activity of humans. Or the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974, protecting rivers and lakes across the country. Nixon’s acts also supported efforts, for the first time, to conserve the oceans, such acts included the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act. Finally, the Clean Air Act Extension of 1970 was also adorned by Nixon’s signature, perhaps the most influential bill in combating pollution in American history.

Perhaps Nixon pursued these policies for all the wrong reasons, but the truth is, they’re good policies.

Grand Teton National Park, WY. Photo: mac9001

President George H. W. Bush and the Clean Air Act

Republican President George H. W. Bush’s Administration amended the Clean Air Act in 1989, issuing new regulatory programs for control of acid rain and expanding toxic air emission regulation programs. In fact, Bush’s acid rain regulatory program helped to reduce acid rain levels by 88% since 1990. During his presidency, Bush also established the U.S. Global Change Research Program and signed into law the Global Change Research Act of 1990, requiring the U.S. Government to produce a National Climate Assessment every four years.

Packrafting the South Fork Flathead River in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, MT. Photo: High Trails.

It is actually only in recent years that the Republican Party has switched their gears to being anti-environment and anti-conservation. Maybe this recent wilderness protection bill is Trump’s attempt to turn things back around to how it used to be?

Cover Photo. Mount Denali, in Denali National Park & Preserve. By Joris Beugels on Unsplash

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