The Ōtorohanga Kiwi House Story
Kiwi conservation since 1971…..
The Ōtorohanga Kiwi House vision:
A sanctuary for New Zealand's unique native birds and reptiles, many rarely seen in the wild
A tourist attraction with educational opportunities for visitors
A breeding centre undertaking scientific research, sharing knowledge and reintroducing species to the wild.
From dreams to reality….
”During the summer of 1969/70 in Ōtorohanga a chemist, a bricklayer and a locum doctor found that they shared a dream. It took … hard work and determination, particularly by Barry Rowe and Bob Horsfall, with the support and encouragement of a number of other people to [realise] that dream [which was] centred on the rescue of NZ's unique flora and fauna from annihilation.
… To young `Greenie" eyes the ugly process of logging in the area was a spur to action. Autumn skies filled with smoke from indiscriminate clear felling of virgin forests gave further impetus to the process. Flocks of bewildered refugee kaka circling above a bush camp added a sense of urgency.
A veritable Noah's Ark was needed to save much of our native fauna from the flood of destructive forces they were facing.
….What better flag to fly than the holding, breeding and display of our national icon the flightless kiwi?
Led by Barry's fertile mind, discussions and enquiries took place about the construction of a giant walk-through geodetic dome aviary and a nocturnal house. The only other nocturnal house in the world at the time was in the San Diego Zoo. Apart from financial constraints another potential impediment was --yes, more bureaucracy!
The Wild Life Department required that an Internal Affairs permit be obtained before kiwis could be held. Despite this, the building was started with donations of money and enthusiastic voluntary labour. Before it's completion rivals appeared. The NZ Insurance Company donated funds for a nocturnal house at the Auckland Zoo and a Government minister took copies of Ōtorohanga plans to Rotorua.
Meanwhile a stray kiwi had joined the Rowe household and temporary permission granted to care for it. A great deal was learned about kiwi dietary and other ratite requirements. Fortune smiled and several months later this lonely bird was joined by two more. On completion, the nocturnal house was furnished with a good supply of leaf mould, NZ native plants and an enticing nesting tunnel.
Meanwhile the kiwis were meticulously cared for by Barry and Bob and veterinary surgeon Ian Wright until at last---Great relief! The long withheld permit arrived. Noah's Ark was legally loaded and launched [and New Zealand's first Kiwi House opened on July 17, 1971].
(Dr. Ripley Jones – M.D.)