Paula’s journey to become an accredited kiwi handler

Paula Griffin’s passion for conservation and her deep-seated love for birds have been the driving forces behind her journey towards becoming an accredited Kiwi handler.

Paula’s fascination with birds took root during lockdown when she watched the documentary series “Fight for the Wild,” which shed light on the devastating impact of introduced predators on New Zealand’s wildlife. This eye-opening series marked a turning point for Paula, igniting a sense of protectiveness towards birds and a determination to contribute to their preservation.

Inspired by her newfound passion, Paula began photographing birds, immersing herself in their world and gaining a deeper appreciation for their vulnerability. Witnessing firsthand the struggles birds endure just to survive reaffirmed Paula’s commitment to conservation and New Zealand’s goal to become Predator Free by 2050.

Joining The Forest Bridge Trusts Predator Control / Volunteer team in 2023 allowed Paula to get more actively involved with predator control, and from there becoming an accredited kiwi handler was a natural progression in her journey amplifying her job as a trapper.

Paula kiwi handler training The Forest Bridge Trust

It represented an opportunity to get up close and personal with these remarkable birds and to play a more active role in their protection.

The moment Paula held a kiwi for the first time was nothing short of surreal. Despite her extensive knowledge and preparation, the experience surpassed her expectations. The kiwi’s calm demeanour and surprisingly lightweight left a lasting impression and Paula reported being surprised that kiwi feathers were not as soft and fluffy as you would think.

The kiwi’s unique scent also stood out to Paula giving her an invaluable insight into why dogs are attracted and curious about a kiwi’s pungent aroma. “It’s a smell you certainly wouldn’t miss”, claims Paula.

Holding a kiwi also helped Paula gain a better understanding of the bird’s anatomy, especially their feet. “As I am out in the bush a lot, seeing one in the flesh has helped me to identify their footprints and other things that I may have overlooked in the past”.

Learning the skills required to become an accredited kiwi handler is no small feat, but Paula has embraced the challenge with determination and enthusiasm. Under the mentorship of Kaipara Kiwi, she has begun honing her abilities and preparing herself for the significant responsibilities that come with the role. The training to gain accreditation as a kiwi handler in accordance with Save the Kiwi best practice guidelines comes with a lot of commitment. As part of her duties, Paula will be required to track the birds twice a week and change the transmitter harnesses twice yearly. This task can be both time-consuming and demanding, often involving hours of tracking and careful handling to ensure the well-being of the kiwi population. Kaipara Kiwi are very happy to welcome Paula to the team they know that she will be a valuable asset to kiwi conservation efforts in the Kaipara region and beyond.