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Kiwi Avoidance Training—13 June 2020

June 14, 2020

Kiwi are New Zealand’s national bird and being flightless, are seriously endangered by introduced predators.  Only a fraction of kiwi chicks born in the wild survive because of predators and ninety-five percent of those killed are killed by either dogs or cats.

In 2013 and 2014, our neighbours, Gill & Kevin Adshead released nearly forty Northland Brown kiwi on their property – Mataia.  These kiwi releases mean that there are wild kiwi by the Kaipara Harbour for the first time in over fifty years.  There is an extensive predator control program at Mataia and also a no dogs policy.

Gill and Kevin are keen conservationists and want to see kiwi flourish in our local area and every two years organise kiwi avoidance training program for the dogs in our area.  Because dogs are not permitted at Mataia, CUE Haven once again hosted the training.

Avoidance training involves making dogs want to avoid any kiwi that they encounter.  The program was sponsored by Kiwis for Kiwi and run by Pete Graham of the Northland Regional Council.

Today was the busiest avoidance training session CUE Haven has hosted with 34 dogs including herding dogs, hunting dogs and pets coming along for training.

Breeds represented included American Staffordshire, Huntaway, Vizsla, Finnish Spitz, German short haired pointer, German shepherd and black and golden Labradors.

Avoidance training is widespread throughout New Zealand.  In order to get a hunting license to hunt deer, pigs or goats in certain locations, the hunter must be able to demonstrate that his dogs are trained.  Further, many land and forest owners require kiwi avoidance training before a dog is allowed onto their property when hiking or exercising.

The training is highly effective but depends on the owner and how well the dog is trained.  Pete stressed that the training was not a replacement for good animal control.  The ideal approach is to subject a dog to initial training and then give the dog a follow up test in six months.  Thereafter, the dog should be retested every two years to ensure continuing effectiveness.

There are different methods of avoidance training and today Pete was using the electric collar method. On arriving, Pete selected a spot on the property where the dogs could be released into a contained area to ensure that their movements could be controlled.  From the chilly bin, Pete took out dead kiwi carcasses and placed them at each end of the run. At one end he also placed a stuffed kiwi for a more visual cue.

The training was carried out by putting a collar on the dog.  Pete had a remote control with which he could give the dog a harmless, mild electric shock that feels like a bee sting.

Because of the number of dogs coming today, each owner had been given a time slot and as they arrived, Pete gave them a briefing on the purpose of the training and how it would be conducted.

Before Pete puts the collar on, the dog is allowed to sniff it and become comfortable with it.

The collar is then attached.

The dog is released or led through the run and allowed to explore.  Most of the dogs today had been through avoidance training before and either ignored or actively avoided the kiwis.

Dogs experiencing avoidance training for the first time would show an interest in the kiwi carcass at the start of the run. When they approach, they get a mild shock from the collar.  The result is that the dog associates the sight and smell of kiwi with the unpleasant experience.

After the dog receives the shock, they go through the run until they avoid the kiwi, demonstrating that the training has been effective.

Detailed records were kept on each dog.

And each owner received stickers to put on their truck or trailer.

We want to thank all the people who brought their dogs for training today.  It was great meeting all of you and we also enjoyed meeting your nice dogs whose behaviour is a positive reflection on the efforts you have made to train them.

Gill and Kevin – our many thanks for taking the initiative and once again arranging the training today. Your passion for conservation is a real inspiration to us.

And a very big thank you to Pete Graham for giving up a Saturday and coming out to conduct the training.  Pete, it was a pleasure to watch you interact with the dogs and their owners and we also appreciate you sharing with us some of your wealth of knowledge about kiwis and how to protect them.

Thanks again everyone for your participation – we looking forward to seeing you all again soon.

And we look forward to the day when kiwi will be roaming freely at CUE Haven too!

 

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