'Little superstar' - Brown kiwi rescued from Taranaki culvert by good Samaritans

A North Island brown kiwi faces a long road to recovery after being rescued from a road culvert in Taranaki last month.

An injured kiwi receives a "pedicure" after being rescued in Taranaki. Source: Wildbase Hospital

Logan Turner, a junior network inspector with infrastructure company Downer, and colleague Isaak Ryan were inspecting culverts on State Highway 3, near Tongaporutu, when the surprised pair came across the kiwi, the Department of Conservation said today in a statement.

Rangers from the Department of Conservation's New Plymouth office, the New Plymouth Veterinary Group and veterinary specialists at Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital in Palmerston North also participated in the bird's rescue.

It's unknown how the kiwi ended up in the culvert.

“It was the first time I’d seen a kiwi in real life, so it was pretty cool. I have never come across wildlife while inspecting culverts before,” Turner said.

The pair informed their supervisor of the discovery, after which they contacted DOC, which offered information on the tools needed to remove the metal grate and access the bird.

Department of Conservation ranger Alison Evans climbed into sump leading off the culvert, after which the kiwi was plucked from its predicament.

“It didn’t have any objection to being picked up and seemed almost relieved to be rescued. It was underweight, cold and suffering from exhaustion,” Evans said.

“The culvert was a pretty inhospitable place to be imprisoned, with large trucks travelling past at open road speeds only a few metres away and water at the bottom of the sump.”

The kiwi did not have a leg band or microchip, suggesting it was wild and not bred in captivity or released into the conservation area.

A kiwi under anaesthesia after being rescued from a culvert in Taranaki last month. Source: Wildbase Hospital

The emaciated bird was then transported to Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital, where staff commenced immediate treatment to keep him alive.

Wildbase supervisor technician Pauline Nijman said the kiwi had been trying to escape to no avail, with the nails on each of its feet worn down to the bone.

The kiwi has so far received several weeks of care, including multiple “pedicures” to clean the nail and bone, x-rays and blood samples.

“This kiwi is such a fighter," Mijman said. "We are happy to report the little superstar is eating well in hospital and after the first week – when it was touch and go - he has started to venture around his room, exercise, forage and gain some much needed weight. But it’s going to be a long journey."

It will be several weeks before Wildbase vets will know if the kiwi has a chance of long-term survival. DOC will liaise with iwi on arrangements, if it can be released back into the wild.

Evans said she’s very grateful the staff from Downer took the initiative to call the DOC hotline after seeing the kiwi was in trouble.

"We all have an obligation to watch out for injured native wildlife and this kiwi was very fortunate to be found alive," she said.

"This one would have almost certainly died if it hadn’t been found in the road-side sump."

DOC has recommended using planks as a ramp for kiwis stuck in holes, drains or culverts who appear unable to escape.