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A Rotoroa Island ReleaseJessica and Mark were stoked to be a part of the Rotoroa Island kiwi release.Only a few hundred years ago, kiwi flooded our forests; now, our national bird is a rare sight in the wild. Only 68,000 kiwi remain in Aotearoa, and without our help, this number will only continue to decline. This is why Rheem partnered with Save the Kiwi, a non-profit organisation dedicated to saving our country’s namesake from extinction.As part of this partnership, Rheem staff are invited to kiwi release days, where young kiwi are relocated into safe areas until they are old enough to defend themselves from predators. Jessica Bensley was one of the Rheem team fortunate enough to attend one of these release days recently, and according to her, it was a “surreal experience”. On a typically windy Auckland day, Jessica and Mark McCutcheon – Rheem’s General Manager – motored their way across the Hauraki Gulf to the small sanctuary of Rotoroa Island.“The hosts were fantastic,” Jessica says. “They were really knowledgeable and super friendly. The whole experience was just amazing. The boat ride over was a bit choppy, so it wasn’t the most idyllic circumstance, but once we get there, Rotoroa Island is just beautiful. It’s just a lovely little island.Jessica walking through the forest towards one of the release spots.The kiwi were carefully placed in wooden “burrows” and left to make their own way out when they were ready.“I’ve not had the chance to go on a kiwi release trip and it was really exciting,” Jessica continued. “There was only meant to be one kiwi released, but there ended up being three – it was awesome and they were ranging in age from really, really young to a bit older.”After arriving on the island, the team made the 15-minute walk up the hill to the first release spot. They soon found the wooden burrow, where the first of the chicks was placed. After everyone leaves, Jessica confirmed, the baby kiwi will make its own way out through the straw-laden box and into the wild. “You never get to see kiwis up close… and to see little tiny ones and so vulnerable, it was quite a unique experience,” Jessica says.“We were accompanied by a beautiful couple and their daughter and they did a little karakia for the third release… it was really sweet. There was an advocate from Save the Kiwi as well, and two Zoo keepers from Auckland zoo.. and it was all of our first times doing a release so we all shared the experience as fresh newbies – it was awesome.”For Jessica, witnessing Save the Kiwi’s important work firsthand provided a fresh perspective of Rheem’s involvement with the organisation.“I think just learning more about where our sponsorship going is just amazing... You can sponsor something and you can know about it, but to really go through the process and see what they do is a whole new level of experience.”Rheem has supported Save the Kiwi for over three years now, and couldn’t be more proud of the work they’re doing throughout the country. If you’d like to find out more about Save the Kiwi and see how you could support their efforts to save our national bird, head to www. savethekiwi.nz/donate.Rheem proudly supports Save the Kiwi to achieve their goal and take kiwi from endangered to everywhere. If you’d like to take part and help save New Zealand’s national icon, go to www.savethekiwi.nz/donate – Your donation will help hatch and raise kiwi chicks in safety, increase kiwi populations, and protect wild kiwi habitat.