Kiwi Encounter offers unique behind-the-scenes tours of a working kiwi nursery and hatchery.
These tours are in addition to normal Rainbow Springs admission and are a DONATION to the National Kiwi Trust.
During the tour you will see each of the stages a kiwi chick goes through before being released in to the wild - incubation, hatching and raising.
Kiwi Encounter is New Zealand’s largest and most successful kiwi conservation centre, having hatched and nurtured over 1000 eggs since 1995 when Rainbow Springs became involved in the Bank of New Zealand’s ‘Save the Kiwi’ recovery Programme known as 'Operation Nest Egg' (or O.N.E. for short), with the arrival of a kiwi egg that had been abandoned.
Up to that point all the eggs that were incubated at Rainbow Springs were from the captive breeding birds. That first egg came from the Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary but now we receive eggs from 13 conservancies and community kiwi trusts around the North Island. Since 1995 Rainbow Springs has successfully hatched, raised and released 1000 kiwi chicks back into the wild.
The (O.N.E.) programme is managed by the Department of Conservation, the Kiwi Recovery trust and institutes like ourselves who co-ordinate all kiwi recovery work in New Zealand. This includes research work being done to monitor kiwi but it also provides ‘in field’ support that result in kiwi eggs being delivered to Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs.
How does it work?
The Department of Conservation staff and field teams monitor male kiwi and when they have established incubation of eggs in the field, teams then lift the eggs from the burrows and bring them to us partially incubated. We complete the incubation artificially (kiwi eggs take approximately 78 days to incubate in artificial conditions, slightly longer when in the wild) and raise the chicks to 1kg in weight. They are then returned to the wild by D.O.C. staff.
With the increase in hatching success rate, the numbers of eggs brought to Rainbow Springs rapidly increased over the first few years and a decision was made to re-invest in a new facility that would be open for public admission and enable New Zealanders and international visitors to see the work being undertaken. In late April 2004 we opened Kiwi Encounter.
The benefits for kiwi conservation are:
1. We have greater capacity to handle more eggs and chicks.
2. A team of qualified staff and specialist equipment to do more conservation work.
3. Kiwi Encounter is a wonderful educational facility for the advocacy of kiwi.
4. People visiting Kiwi Encounter will now be helping to fund this facility thereby directly contributing to kiwi conservation.
The opening of Kiwi Encounter has also provided an ideal facility for the continuation of research. Areas currently under research are the refinement of incubation parameters for kiwi eggs in force draft incubators, matting trials to monitor the effect of different substrates for young chicks in the brooder room prior to them going outside. And growth rates and coccidia screening trials for disease management.