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CHAPTER FIVE: CRECHE ISLAND

Finally it was time for Waiata to head off to Motuara Island, the rowi crèche island in Marlborough Sounds. Firstly, Waiata and his cohort mates had to be fitted with radio transmitters on their upper thigh. They had to be woken up from their daylight sleep to for their fitting the day before their move. These light-weight transmitters ensure that they can be found again to check on their progress and for health check-ups.
On the 22nd of May Waiata, and eight other rowi chicks, were settled into their transport boxes for the long journey to Picton. They probably were a bit grumpy as it was 4:30am and still dark out and they would have missed out on 2-3 hours of productive foraging time before daylight at 7:30am at this time of year. Loaded two birds to a towel-lined box, four boxes in total, they were driven northwards. This is a trip of 520km and takes over six hours. Quite a tiring journey for the eight little chicks.

Once in Picton they then get to cruise by boat for around ½ an hour passing the Interislander ferry and the occasional pod of common dolphins. Their journey is almost at an end for the day. After being unloaded at the Motuara wharf and toted up the hill the birds are placed into roomy wooden burrows located for that purpose in what is known as 'kiwi town' or into some of the numerous logs and cavities that have been made use of by many rowi chicks in the past. As rowi can exhibit a relaxed attitude to cohabitation, especially at a young age, they are liberated along with their travel-box mates depending on how roomy a burrow is. Maybe they gain some comfort cuddling up to other chicks that they have probably only recognise by smell since they haven't all met face-to-face when they were in the pre-release pens. Motuara Island will be their home for 5 – 6 months, at least until they are all over the 'stoat-proof' weight of 1.2kg.

Once that milestone has been reached the final journey to their forever home can be made, back within the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary, to begin the cycle once more.