With the exception of eagles, the flightless national bird of New Zealand had no predators until the settlers came.
Kiwi numbers have declined rapidly over the past century, as populations struggled with the twin threats of shrinking habitat and expanding legions of new predators.
Hugh Robertson, who runs the Kiwi Recovery Program of New Zealand's Department of Conservation, estimates that there were as many as five million kiwis when European settlers arrived in 1840 and that the population now stands at 75,000.
"It's because of people and introduced predators - ferrets, stoats, weasels, dogs, cats," said Jeremy Maguire, manager of the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, just outside the town of Christchurch. "They are a species in decline, and if it continues at the current rate, they will become extinct." . . .
"In our case, the stage was set for a spectacular tragedy," said John McLennan, who has studied the kiwi for 20 years, and "because we were an island of birds and invertebrates - bats are our only native mammal - and we had birds that had become mammal-like, so when they met real mammals head-on, it was just a disaster." . . .
But the kiwi has survived, just. . . .
Surveys suggest that, in the wild, only one in 20 kiwi chicks survives its first year. The main culprits are stoats, introduced in an unsuccessful experiment to control the exploding population of rabbits, an earlier alien import. . . .
So New Zealand is pursuing a partnership among government agencies, local communities, nonprofit groups like Save the Kiwi and commercial operations like the Willowbank reserve, which has offered its hatchery services. . . .