Lapwing chick in Scotland
Photo by Lorne Gill/NatureScot

A kiwi, a capercaillie and a Code

Republished with permission from NatureScot

Over 11,000 miles of land and sea separate New Zealand and Scotland, but both nations are known for their stunning landscapes and iconic wildlife enjoyed by many visitors. The two countries also encourage people to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, including with their four-legged friends.

Juvenile little-spotted kiwi

Juvenile little-spotted kiwi at Zealandia Ecosanctuary. © Kimberley Collins, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The kiwi is well-known as the national symbol of New Zealand, but this iconic bird is in trouble. Sadly, there are only around 70,000 of these birds left in New Zealand, and 2 per cent of the country’s unmanaged kiwi are killed unnecessarily every year by predators, pests, and pets.

This flightless species – related to ostriches, emus, and cassowaries – is particularly vulnerable to roaming dogs. With their inability to fly, underdeveloped wings and chest muscles, and lack of a sternum, kiwi are susceptible to crushing injuries inflicted by dog bites. Dogs frequently kill adult kiwi and can cause catastrophic declines in local populations. Any dog – regardless of size, breed, training, or temperament – can kill a kiwi by giving it a playful push.

Orongorongo Valley

And the issue isn’t restricted to kiwi. Recently, dogs killed several little penguins on the beaches of the capital city, Wellington. In New Zealand, the risk if this continues is not only that the country will lose miraculous birds like the kiwi but that landowners, public and private, will start denying dog walkers access to their land altogether.

Different species, similar issues

The species involved differ, but we face similar issues with dogs and how they are controlled (or not) by their owners in Scotland. Even a well-trained dog can frighten or harm wildlife by being curious when exploring.

Scottish lapwing chick

Lapwing chick. © Lorne Gill/NatureScot

This is a particular concern in the spring and summer – when ground-nesting birds are rearing their young here. In areas like moorland, forests, grassland, loch shores and the seashore, nests and chicks can be well camouflaged but easily sniffed out by a four-legged friend. As with the kiwi, it would only take a playful nudge from a dog to harm a wader chick or a few seconds off-lead running through long grass to crush eggs in a concealed nest.

Tufted duck nest in Scotland

Tufted duck nest. © Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Codes in common

So, when Herenga ā Nuku Aotearoa, New Zealand’s Outdoor Access Commission, contacted NatureScot, asking if it could rework some of our communications resources to suit their responsible dog ownership messages, we were only too happy to help.

Both New Zealand and Scotland have outdoor access codes that serve as guides for responsible outdoor behaviour. People following the codes – keeping dogs under control, respecting farmers and their livestock, and protecting animals that dogs may accidentally harm or scare – play a crucial role in safeguarding birds, from the kiwi to the capercaillie. So, it made sense to collaborate.

We provided Herenga ā Nuku with graphics that they adapted with their branding in both English and te Reo Māori. These jointly created resources are already being shared with New Zealand dog walkers on their social media channels.

We are all doing our best to help our wildlife survive and thrive – wherever we live – and it’s great to be able to work with organisations in other countries, like Herenga ā Nuku Aotearoa, to help spread shared responsible outdoor access messages far and wide.

Find out more

The Herenga ā Nuku Aotearoa website has more information about the New Zealand Outdoor Access Code and links to their social media channels.

You can discover more about outdoor access in Scotland, responsible dog walking and how to avoid wildlife disturbance on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website.