10 Questions with Janet Hunt


Q1: Your previous book featuring stories from Wildbase was How to Mend a Kea. Are you just as pleased with this one?

 Absolutely! In some respects Three Kiwi Tales was more challenging because it includes the wider stories of the subjects — but that makes it very interesting and more of a complete story of a species. The two books are standalone but do also complement each other and work together.


Q2: How did you choose your three kiwi stars?

In consultation with Pauline from Wildbase and Emma at Rainbow Springs. I looked for three very different cases: so we have a story of a North Island brown kiwi egg, and the wider background of Operation Nest Egg; then a story from the South Island, of a Haast tokoeka that has a damaged bill, which calls for innovative thinking from the Wildbase team; then a story of a small brown kiwi that twice broke that his leg and needed not only surgery but also rehabilitation.


Q3: Do you have a favourite kiwi tale?

 It’s hard to choose! Little Piwi, the kiwi with the broken leg, is rather appealing but they all have their attraction and interest.


Q4: Was there something new you learnt about kiwis while writing this book?

I learned heaps! I had known a lot in outline but this project filled in the details. In particular, I was amazed by the story of Operation Nest Egg — the reasons why it can work, the extraordinary process from laying to hatching and the reasons O.N.E. is vitally important. I have so much respect and admiration for all the people working together out there to ensure the safety and survival of this astonishing creature.


Q5: Do you feel hopeful about the future for kiwis?

 On a good day . . . but it’s terrible that kiwi numbers have fallen so low in the past 100 years and that we are now having to fight a rearguard action. The future of kiwi, or any other native species, is utterly dependant on ongoing predator control across the country and on keeping our forests and wild places healthy.


Q6: The Wildbase team really have to think outside the box to help their patients, was there a particularly ingenious solution that impressed you?

 The use of superglue and dress-making hooks to create a supporting structure for a broken bill was very clever!


Q7: As you did with How to Mend a Kea, you wrote, took the photos and designed Three Kiwi Tales. Which aspect of the process do you enjoy most?

I am so lucky to be able to do this and I enjoy all the process in different ways. Perhaps the most exciting time is the research phase, when I’m finding out all sorts of interesting things, selecting different elements and plotting how they will come together to make a story. But it’s also great to work with the team from Massey University Press to create the stories through images and text on the pages. Seeing the final product is a buzz!


 Q8: Do you have a favourite corner of New Zealand?

 I don’t get to travel quite as much as you might expect and think all of New Zealand is awesome in different ways, but if I have a favourite corner, it’s probably somewhere in the South Island, maybe Fiordland and the West Coast.


Q9: What has been your most memorable wildlife encounter?

 What a great question! So hard to choose and I’ll probably think of something else later.  Maybe seeing a Royal Northern Albatross coming ashore at Taiaroa Head. Or rescuing a little penguin from a drain (where it was making very peculiar purring noises) and carrying it to safety with its bill latched onto my finger on Waiheke Island. Or watching baby seals play in a pool on Wharariki Beach in Golden Bay.


Q10: What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve recently become a bit of a dinosaur nut and have just finished reading The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: The Untold Story of a Lost World, by Steve Brusatte. It’s a bit like looking at the night sky — looking back so many millions of years sure gives a different perspective on things. But I especially like the fact that birds are living dinosaurs – those kiwi legs do look a bit like a dinosaur’s!