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KIWI MAY BE HEADED FOR EXTINCTION

The bird symbolizing New Zealand -- the North Island brown kiwi -- may be headed for extinction, threatened by predators, shrinking habitats and insufficient preservation funding.

In the last 15 years, the North Island brown kiwi population has dropped from about 70,000 to 30,000, according to a field study published Wednesday by scientist John McLennan of Landcare Research.

Only 5 percent of North Island brown kiwi chicks born each year make it to adulthood, the study says. Unless 20 percent survive, the population will continue its move toward extinction, scientists say.

Stoats, also known as ermine, head the list of kiwi predators, killing chicks within a month of their leaving the nest, McLennan said. Ferrets were also beginning to kill off kiwi.

The real problem, McLennan said, is to find funding for the remedies scientists already have or for more habitat area.

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