Staff at Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park are gutted after a second kiwi chick was found dead in its eggshell last Sunday morning.
“I shed many tears,” senior wildlife keeper Nicole Kunzmann says.
“It’s just heartbreaking – you put so much effort into getting the chicks through and to get them so far and lose them at the last minute is just heartbreaking.”
The chick was doing well on Saturday and Kunzmann left the park that night thinking everything was normal.
“The chick was vocalising and moving around [inside its shell] and I thought everything was OK.”
By vocalising, “it kind of just squeaks, really,” she explains.
If chicks are vocalising and active, that’s usually a good sign: “But we came in Sunday morning and saw it had passed away in the night.”
This is the second brown kiwi to perish from four eggs produced by young female Tawahi, just turned three, and mate Tamanui, five.
A chick hatched from the first egg but died at just nine days old.
One of the two surviving eggs is definitely fertile and is due to hatch next month, Kunzmann says – “It’s developing really nicely.”
The other egg hasn’t been checked for fertility yet.
Sad though the two fledgling deaths have been, Kunzmann says they’re not unusual.
“Kiwi chicks naturally have a low hatch rate in the wild anyway – about 50 per cent.”
A post mortem on the first dead chick showed “a really unusual blood disorder”, Kunzmann adds.
If post mortem results from this latest death – due by week’s end – show the same disorder, “it’s likely to be
something the parents are carrying”.