Local author lends pen to kiwi recovery

Waikato Times – SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2014
Rachel Thomas

Te Awamutu author and illustrator Kat Merewether is helping to save kiwi one book at a time.

Kuwi’s First Egg is a touching story about a first-time mother kiwi named Kuwi who scrambles to protect her first ever egg.

‘‘Kuwi is me’’ Merewether said, ‘‘and any parent who feels a little like they were thrown in the deep end when they became a parent.’’

Merewether is donating 20c from every book sold to Kiwis for kiwi to help save the national icon. She has already raised $800 and handed it over to the charity. To their delight, children at Hamilton’s MidCity Childcare were treated to a reading by Merewether yesterday which ended with a lesson on how to draw kiwi.

A practised illustrator, this was the 15th book the mother-of-three had illustrated, but the first one she’d ever written. Along with the iconic bird, the carefully illustrated book was full of things dear to the hearts of Kiwis – Whittaker’s chocolate lay on the floor, huhu grubs were served as kai, and pohutakawa flowers filled vases in Kuwi’s nest. One room even featured an adaptation of the famed Mickey to Tiki painting by Dick Frizzell was hung on the wall.

Merewether got the idea for the book while she was pregnant with her second daughter, Willow, now 4. She spent more than a year working on the illustrations and researching kiwi for the book. ‘‘In my research I discovered that the male kiwi typically cares for the kiwi egg. So the character Kuwi, being female, turns that idea on its head,’’ Merewether said. ‘‘The kiwi population is so fragile and I imagine that kiwi often lose their partners to predators.’’ Merewether said the commitment to raising funds for kiwi conservation was partly inspired by her father, a ‘‘conservation buff’’ who worked for the Wildlife Department (later the Department of Conservation) when she was a child.

She was encouraged to learn that each $100 donated to the programme would ensure the safety of a kiwi for a year. ‘‘Kat’s generous support for Kiwis for kiwi means that we can protect eight more kiwi for another year,’’ said Michelle Impey, executive director of the organisation. ‘‘Fifty percent of all kiwi eggs fail to even hatch and disturbance by predators is one cause,’’ Impey said . ‘‘Of the eggs that do hatch, about 90 per cent of chicks are dead within six months largely due to predators. Kiwis for kiwi works in partnership with the Department of Conservation to support the national Kiwi Recovery Programme.

Kuwi’s First Egg is available at Whitcoulls, Paper Plus and the Warehouse.

Image Caption: 
Kiwi kids: Author and illustrator Kat Merewether reads her book Kuwi’s First Egg to children at MidCity Childcare Centre. Atticus Mills, 2, spots a kiwi as Xanthe Keen, 4, looks on. 
Photo: Peter Drury/ Fairfax NZ