The Elusive Mawe

Mawe was released on Taranaki Maunga on May 18th, 2021, she came from the Taranaki Kōhanga Kiwi at Rotokare (partnership between Taranaki Kiwi Trust & Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust) and was in average condition at release. She wasn’t considered large for a female weighing in at just 1800 grams, her bill was also relatively short which indicated she was a reasonably young bird. Mawe had a transmitter attached to her leg to allow us to track her to monitor survival and dispersal patterns. As we know from previous kiwi monitoring experience young kiwi are always on the move. Kiwi become sexually mature at 2 – 3 years of age, it is at this stage they establish territories, stay put in more or less the same place and are much easier to keep track of.  So, we knew Mawe would keep us on our toes as we attempted to keep track of her over the next few years, but we didn’t know just how hard it would be!

She was difficult to find from the get go, taking off soon after her release up Egmont Road, the only reliable way we could obtain a signal on her was using a fixed wing plane. We also occasionally managed to get a weak signal from up really high on the Puffer or the Razorback tracks, however whenever we dropped down lower on foot the signal would always be lost. We knew she was somewhere in the Kokowai Track area but her exact location was a mystery for many months. Ideally we like to get a signal on all monitored kiwi at least once a month and more frequently for a few months after release, that never happened with Mawe. She was scheduled for a transmitter change in March so early in 2022 we knew we had to pinpoint her location. In late January Toby picked up a signal from the Kaiauai Track much lower down than expected. It was a good strong signal so he planned to strike while the iron was hot and head straight back in with Maia, the TKT apprentice. The next day the pair set off and could not find a signal anywhere, they went back up high on the Mounga and still could not find Mawe, a fruitless days searching!

Two fixed wing plane flights followed and we still did not pick up a signal, now we were stumped, Mawe was beginning to look like the kiwi that got away. A couple of months passed with no sign of her, then early in May Toby obtained a signal from the Veronica Loop Track towards the Kokowai Track, there was cheering all round at the Trust. But it was late in the day, no time for trying to snaffle her so he returned the following day to track her down and ……………….. again no signal could be found! This was getting to be one tricky kiwi and time was running out as the handling season was coming to an end.  By late May Mawe was the only kiwi on the Mounga and Kaitake Ranges without a new transmitter, Toby set out determined to find her and he again obtained a weak signal from the Veronica Loop Track. He followed the signal and ended up below Pouakai Hut (almost 7km in a straight line!!). By now the weather had turned and it took another 5 days to get back out to try and catch this houdini kiwi. Starting out at the Mangoaraka carpark Toby decided to try and get a signal up towards the hut, surprisingly he got a her loud and clear indicating she was really close, but 3.5km from where she was 5 days prior. That day Sian had to go and collect Toby as he was miles from where he had parked the car.

Mawe was finally caught on 31st May 2022 with some stealth like stalking from Toby to ensure she did not become alarmed and do a runner on him, it was the very last day of the kiwi handling season. He found her near the National Park boundary at the top of Mangorei Road. She checked in weighing a whopping 2340 grams (almost 550 grams heavier than the previous year) and was in good condition. She traveled at least 15km to get to where she is, our most intrepid kiwi yet, kicking Tumatakori off the top slot, he was pretty well traveled at 12km! We also know she has been moving up and down the Maunga so the actual distance would be a lot further. Despite the huge walk she has been on she has gained a heap of weight and is doing really well. We look forward to the day Mawe finally decides to settle down and establish a territory but until then she will keep our TKT rangers and volunteers fit and extremely busy!

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