Kiwi spirit for Kiwi house

The Ōtorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park’s second kiwi chick of the season. Photo: Supplied.

Part of the Ōtorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park facility was stuck by lightning mid-lockdown – then the park was struck by community spirit.

Staff posted after the lightning that the Barry Rowe Aviary – a large dome-shaped structure – was “unscathed” following the strike – and more importantly, “all the animals are safe and accounted for”.

A skeleton crew of about five – the park normally has up to 20 on its books – have worked throughout the lockdown.

General Manager Jo Russell said in the days following the lightning strike the Ōtorohanga community came to the party after also learning the park was running short of fruit and vegetables.

“This is not just Ōtorohanga’s kiwi park, this is Waikato’s kiwi park.”

In just a day, 36 families, including some in Te Awamutu, came forward online and the park soon had several weeks’ worth of the produce it needed.

“It’s just amazing what a community can achieve when it comes together – and we have the most generous, giving community.”

The park will re-open when New Zealand moves to level two.

The enforced closure would hit hard, “but the park has been here for 50 years and we will find ways of making sure it continues,” Jo Russell said.

“I would say we have one of the largest collections of native birds in New Zealand – this is not just Ōtorohanga’s kiwi park, this is Waikato’s kiwi park.”

The park cares for more than 200 animals.

A silver lining of sorts amongst it all has been the fact two of the park’s kiwi – Kaitiaki and Flufarse – have had their second kiwi chick for the season.

Once the chick reaches 500 grams it will be put into one of the outdoor nursery pens to begin life as part of the park’s captive breeding programme.

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