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NorthTec science student Emma Doel is enjoying getting up close and personal with New Zealand’s national bird.
Emma, who is completing a Bachelor of Applied Science (Biodiversity Management) this year, enjoyed her work placement at Kiwi North so much she decided to continue assisting as a volunteer.
This led to a part-time job and she hopes to be able to work full time at the Maunu-based Kiwi North facility after graduation.
Emma chose to study at NorthTec despite already having a science degree from the University of Auckland. She wanted to gain some practical, hands-on experience to prepare her for a career in the conservation field.
Her experience of working with kiwi has given her an interest in animal husbandry and she is keen to learn as much as possible about the birds.
Emma said that after completing her BSc in Science, majoring in Biology, she was accepted for post-graduate study in Auckland. Due to health issues she decided to return to Whangarei and looked at study options close to home. She was interested in the degree programme at NorthTec because of its practical focus.
She was accepted into the NorthTec Diploma in Conservation and Environmental Management programme, which she was able to complete in one year due to her prior learning. She is now studying for the Bachelor of Applied Science – a Unitec degree which is delivered in Whangarei by NorthTec tutors.
Emma said she chose a work placement at Kiwi North for her practicum paper last year, because she was interested in the education side of the centre, rather than animal husbandry. While she thoroughly enjoyed working with school groups and other visitors, educating them about the kiwi, tuatara and geckos on display, she had become increasingly interested in working with the creatures themselves.
She has got to know the two kiwi occupants of the kiwi house - female Puna and male Kapua - through feeding and looking after the birds, and has learned that they are not the sweet, docile creatures she had believed them to be.
Emma said: “They are very cute but they are also feisty! They are also incredibly territorial. The female is dominant naturally and is a bit of a character.” The two kiwi were bred in captivity elsewhere in New Zealand, and will remain at Kiwi North until they are ready to be released into a wild sanctuary. To keep the human imprint to a minimum, staff limit their handling of the birds to essential needs only. Emma recently undertook a handling training session for the first time, and was thrilled to be able to hold Kapua.
She is keen to share her knowledge in the future and is considering a future career in an advocacy role or continuing with the animal husbandry she has learned at Kiwi North.
Emma said the best part of studying at NorthTec was the practical nature of the programme, which has seen her class undertake “awesome” field trips to a range of locations, including a NIWA agriculture facility, Limestone Island and Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf.
She said: “There is a much more hands-on focus at NorthTec, because of the small classes and the relationships with these places. It is exposing us to the industry and also helps us build our own personal relationships with people.”
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