Saved from the brink of extinction in Wellington, kaka could face a new threat from humans, with one city dweller threatening to kill them.

Zealandia conservation manager Raewyn Empson said a small number of people living near the Karori sanctuary had called with complaints about the rare parrots eating plums from their trees. One had called threatening to kill the endangered bird, which Ms Empson said was “very unwise”, given that they were strictly protected.

However, most who called to report kaka sightings were thrilled to see them. Ms Empson said Wellington was the only city with a breeding population. “All indications are that the kaka are here to stay.”

The birds tended to gather at dawn and squawk noisily, but Ms Empson said their song had not generated complaints – a far cry from 2008, when the sanctuary said people were ringing to complain about noisy tui, after an explosion in their numbers.

full story on stuff.co.nz

NewZealand birds . com Kaka

Lack of UV light harming tuatara


Some New Zealand tuatara facilities have been inadvertently harming their endangered charges by enclosing them without sufficient light, new research shows.

Without full-spectrum lighting, tuatara can suffer nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (NSHP), which causes bones to break and other painful conditions.

Ultraviolet (UV) light produces vitamin D, which helps the bones absorb calcium.

Research published by Massey University in the January issue of the New Zealand Veterinary Journal shows four of the 18 tuatara facilities examined in New Zealand (five overseas zoos keep tuatara) were using ineffective UV light sources and others were not supplying enough.

“The results of this study showed a significant proportion of tuatara in New Zealand are not provided with sufficient access to ultraviolet B light for the synthesis of vitamin D, which may acerbate the problems created by a poor diet,” the study said.

“Furthermore, a clear relationship was demonstrated between the availability of light and the historical risk of NSHP for animals kept indoors.”

It does not mention facilities by name or whether the problem had led to deaths.

Tuatara Recovery Group captive-management co-ordinator Barbara Blanchard, of Wellington, who helped with the study, said Christchurch’s Orana Wildlife Park had been the first to “pick up” the problem, which was then identified in a North Island facility.

All facilities had been told to ensure their tuatara had access to UV light equivalent “to what you see on a cloudy day in New Zealand”.

She said more research on the optimum UV light for tuatara was needed.

full story on stuff

Wikipedia tuatara

Weka on the menu

Wednesday, 3 February 2010, 10:00 am
Press Release: Federated Farmers

Media Release
3 February 2010

This bird is a Weka, which is also the name of a well-known suite of machine learning tools.

Reasons to farm weka

Federated Farmers is backing entrepreneurial farmer, Roger Beattie, in his quest to secure trial approval to supply farmed weka.

“Here’s a true Kiwi entrepreneur who ought to have every policy encouragement to see if a new market can be created,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers game spokesperson.

“Mr Beattie firmly believes that the weka can be domesticated and if that’s the case, it could well become our version of the turkey. After all, that’s a bird native to the Americas that is now commonly farmed around the world. The turkey was domesticated around 500BC.

“I think the reaction from TVNZ’s Close-Up on Monday evening shows New Zealanders are open-minded to new possibilities. 85 percent of respondents felt Mr Beattie should be given the room to try. We do, too.

“New Zealand is a unique country and it stands to reason that our fauna has the unique potential to be farmed as well. As Mr Beattie rightly points out, no farmed species has ever become extinct. Really, it’s the complete opposite when it comes to farming.

Full press release on scoop.co.nz

Rodent Detected On ‘Pest-Free’ Kiwi Crèche Island

Wednesday, 3 February 2010, 11:52 am
Press Release: Department of Conservation

Rodent Detected On ‘Pest-Free’ Kiwi Crèche Island

A large Norway rat discovered in a permanent trap on the ‘pest-free’ island of Motuora in the Hauraki Gulf has sparked a Department of Conservation (DOC) response operation. Motuora, which is jointly managed by DOC and the Motuora Restoration Society and is home to young kiwi chicks and other threatened species, has never had a population of mammalian predators such as rats, stoats or ferrets.

The rat was found yesterday during a regular check, caught in one of the sentry stations designed to detect and trap any invading pests. Based on the level of decay, it is estimated the animal had been dead at least a fortnight. A similar invasion in February 2008 ended with a single rat being caught after several weeks of effort.

The main concern now is the risk that other rodents may be present, prompting DOC staff and volunteers to widen the trapping programme with a large number of extra traps placed over the island. This afternoon a rodent detection dog will be deployed, a tool that has proved effective in the past.

Full press release on scoop.co.nz

DNA suggests Moa once flew

Listen to the Radio NZ item.

New research indicates the moa may not always have been flightless.

The research, by Professor David Penny, Elizabeth Crimp and Gillian Gibb of the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, has found that moa were closely related to the tinamou, a breed of South American birds.

The team was led by former Massey student Dr Matt Phillips, who now works at the Australian National University in Canberra.

DNA analysis indicates the tinamou is the closest relative of the moa within a group of birds known as ratites, which includes kiwi and other flightless birds such as the cassowary, ostrich and emu.

Although moa are extinct, it is possible to sequence their DNA from well-preserved bones.

Tinamou, of which there are about 47 species, are the only members of the group that can fly, though only poorly. They are found throughout central and southern America.

“It now appears more likely that the ancestor of the moa flew, or was blown, to New Zealand via Antarctica before it froze over,” Professor Penny says. “There are well over 100 cases of birds becoming flightless on Pacific islands because of the absence of mammal predators.”

Ms Gibb is completing her PhD on the evolution of birds in New Zealand under Professor Penny, which includes this current research.

“We did some more DNA sequencing from kiwi and also new analysis of the data set for the ratites,” she says. “The re-analysis shows that the ratites probably lost flight independently of each other, rather than the ancestor of all ratites being large and flightless, as traditionally thought.

“We’ve known for about 15 years that kiwi possibly flew to New Zealand – escaping from Australia – but no one realised that moa may have too.”

Previous theories pointed to moa being established on the land that would become New Zealand as it broke away from Gondwana more than 80 million years ago.

The research was published in this month’s Systematic Biology, an international science journal.

Original story on Massey university website