As floodwaters poured into Matt the kiwi’s enclosure, threatening the egg he had been sitting on for two weeks, he spent the night gathering leaves to raise the nest out of danger.

Jemma Martin, a keeper at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, found him sitting on the egg above water level after she waded through the flood Monday morning following torrential rains, the local daily, The Press reported.

Martin said she and fellow keeper Blair Chapman dug a channel to drain water from the North Island brown kiwi’s enclosure and dried dead leaves in an oven so that Matt could add some more padding to his nest.

Male kiwis usually sit on the eggs laid by the females, who produce the largest eggs in proportion to their size of any bird - 20 per cent of body weight.

But Matt won’t get to see his offspring spend the customary four days it takes to break out of the egg.

After 30 days of sitting on it, the keepers will take the egg from the nest to incubate it in the reserve’s breeding centre, dedicated to ensuring survival of the endangered species, which is New Zealand’s national emblem.

Keepers hope the loss will stimulate Matt’s partner, Kamo, to lay another egg.

There are estimated to be fewer than 60,000 kiwis surviving from a population 80 years ago of about 5 million, according to the Willowbank website.

The New Zealand Conservation Trust supports several breeding centres because the rate of mortality is so high among chicks in the wild that adult hens do not manage to even raise two or three chicks in their lifetime.

Both egg and chick are vulnerable to predators like possums, stoats, ferrets, cats, dogs and wild pigs, but once they reach 1 kilogram in weight they are thought to be able to survive. This can take up to a year.

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