Recovery programmes slow kiwi’s decline

Kiwi recovery programmes are proving their worth even though the national population of the threatened bird continues to decline, Conservation Department science officer Rogan Colbourne says.

Mr Colbourne has been part of the BNZ Operation Nest Egg scheme. The Hawke’s Bay group released its 100th young North Island brown kiwi into the Kaweka Ranges on Thursday.

Nationally the kiwi population is thought to be falling by about 6 per cent a year, but Mr Colbourne said local programmes were making a difference, in some cases having increased the local population.

“At Okarito [on the West Coast] they have increased the population from 150 to more than 300,” he said.

In Hawke’s Bay, with a kiwi population of fewer than 1000, the addition of 100 young birds since 2003 was significant. Kiwi lived on average to 40 – and even to 60 – if there were no predators.

In these programmes, eggs are taken from the wild and incubated, then the hatchlings are kept in a predator-proof environment till considered big enough to fend for themselves in the wild.

“There is a 90 per cent hatch rate with these eggs, compared with only 50 per cent in the wild, for various reasons,” Mr Colbourne said.

“Possums can eat the eggs, the adults can damage them accidentally, and there can be bacteria after rainfall.

“Once hatched [in captivity] about 80 per cent reach the sub-adult stage and once they are released about two-thirds survive in the wild, though that varies from area to area.”

Of kiwi hatched in the wild, only about 5 per cent survived to become adults, as predators such as stoats, ferrets and feral cats ate the young birds. Ferrets and dogs could kill adults, and dogs were a particular worry in Northland.

About 15 recovery groups were operating in the North Island, with assistance from DOC and other organisations, Mr Colbourne said.

The Hawke’s Bay group is led by the Environment, Conservation and Outdoor Education Trust.

Spokesman Alastair Bramley said the survival rate for the kiwi released in Hawke’s Bay was about two-thirds overall, but it had been up at 90 per cent till an outbreak of ferret attacks in 2008.

“We haven’t lost any since then,” he said.

Dogs were not such a big problem in Hawke’s Bay because hunters there had to put their dogs through kiwi aversion training before they could register them, Mr Bramley said.

The 100th kiwi has been named Parauri and was released in the Kawekas after a ceremony at the Pan Pac Kiwi Creche, inland from Tutira.

Original story

Giant eagle ruled New Zealand skies

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A new study shows that New Zealand’s giant – and now extinct – Haast’s eagle ruled the skies until 500 years ago, swooping down on moa.

Scientists have known about the existence of Haast’s eagle since 1871 based on excavated bones, including bones carved by early Maori, but their behaviour was not entirely clear.

Because of their large size – they weighed up to 18kg with wingspans up to 3m – some scientists believed they were scavengers rather than predators.

Earlier research has indicated the eagle had enough strength in its talons to kill a moa weighing 180kg, attacking at up to 80kph, or even to attack a human child.

The latest study throwing new light on this was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Researchers Dr Paul Scofield, curator of vertebrates at the Canterbury Museum, and Professor Ken Ashwell of the University of New South Wales used computerised CT and CAT scans to reconstruct the size of the brain, eyes, ears and spinal cord of the Haast’s eagle.

These details were compared to values from modern predatory and scavenging birds to determine the habits of the extinct eagle.

“This work is a great example of how rapidly evolving medical techniques and equipment can be used to solve ancient mysteries,” said Dr Ashwell.

full story

video of Dr Paul Scofield talking about the birds of Christchurch

Native birds feel no fear when facing foes

Scoop: Native birds feel no fear when facing foes

Click to enlarge

Sarah Whitwell with the stuffed stoat and morepork she has been using to test fear responses of the North Island robin.


Endangered native birds are at risk of losing their instinct to recognise and flee mammalian enemies when moved between predator-free and predator-filled sites, says a Massey researcher.

Sarah Whitwell, a biology Masters student at Massey’s Institute of Natural Resources in Albany, designed an experiment using a pulley system to dangle a stuffed stoat and morepork at nesting North Island robins to test their fear responses. She says most robins in areas free of introduced predators such as stoats failed to get into a flap at the sight of an enemy, albeit a fake version.

Her research adds to growing evidence that native birds’ responses to mammalian predators are not genetically hard-wired.

“That’s because introduced mammal predators have been here a relatively short time, whereas native birds have been here for millions of years.”

She says already endangered native bird species would be at increased risk if moved back to wilderness sites with mammalian predators after inhabiting mammal-free conservation areas without some form of predator-recognition training.

The responses of robins in predator-controlled Wenderholm Reserve and Tiritiri Matangi Island near Auckland were compared with those in the central North Island, where the birds have long co-existed with native and introduced predators.

FULL PRESS REALEASE ON SCOOP

On the lookout for lizards

Scoop: On the lookout for lizards
Wellington green gecko, DOC
Click to enlarge

Conservation staff on the DOC Poneke area-managed Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington Harbour are preparing for an exciting arrival on Friday’s 10 am ferry sailing.

15 rare Wellington green geckos, seven of which have spent the last twelve months on ‘sabbatical’ at the city’s Karori Sanctuary, are being released on the island on Friday 15 November as part of an annual translocation programme – the largest to date.

DOC first began translocating green geckos to the island sanctuary in 2006 to create a self-sustaining population on this predator-free island. They have been working with local lizard breeders to ensure a genetically diverse supply of geckos for release on a yearly basis. This year, 16 lucky local school children with a special interest in conservation have been chosen to take part in the release.

‘Establishing a safe population on Matiu/Somes will help ensure survival’, said DOC biodiversity ranger Brent Tandy.

Local lizard enthusiasts and conservation projects like Karori Sanctuary play a critical support role for DOC’s gecko recovery programme in terms of both advocacy and breeding. One year old animals are taken to the Sanctuary for display in a special gecko enclosure before being released on the island at two years old.

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Tui to flourish after crackdown on pests

Tui to flourish after crackdown on pests – New Zealand news on Stuff.co.nz

A big jump in the number of tui visiting Hamilton is predicted next year as the impact of a successful breeding project kicks in.

Environment Waikato expects a bumper tui breeding season at its Hamilton Halo project sites this spring, thanks to a highly successful winter of pest control operations. This is expected to produce results by next winter.

EW aims to attract more tui to the city by wiping out the birds’ two main predators – ship rats and possums – at breeding sites near the city.

It is currently controlling the pests at one Whatawhata site and two sites near Cambridge, Maungakawa Scenic Reserve and Te Miro Reserve. There is around 850 hectares of native bush under protection.

The regional council devised a special pest control programme to kill the rats using more than 1300 bait stations across the three sites.

Pest control took place in August and September, before the October tui breeding season.

EW councillor Paula Southgate said the results of a recent rat census were excellent, with only 2.2 per cent of the 225 tracking tunnels registering rat footprints, compared with up to 41 per cent before pest control.Estimates from Landcare Research were that nesting success could increase from around 25 per cent to 75 per cent.

There were also reports that native seedlings were flourishing on the forest floor without possums and rats around. Other native birds, such as kereru and bellbirds, are also expected to benefit from the programme.

original story on stuff.co.nz

Rat scare at island sanctuary averted by four-legged hero

TV3 > News > Weather/Environment News > Story > Rat scare at island sanctuary averted by four-legged hero

An island sanctuary for rare birds has been at the centre of a pest scare today. Motuihe Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf has been rat-free for 15 years, but yesterday paw prints were found at several spots on the island.

Jack the dog has been specially trained to smell a rat and today his senses were put to the test.

Jack and his owner, Fin Buchanan, have been training for seven years for a day like today.

But with a camera watching Jack’s every step, finding the Motuihe rat still looked like big weight to bear.

The rogue rat threatened the Department of Conservation’s million dollar plans to release kiwi and other rare birds on the island.

“This is the last thing we needed or expected,” DoC threats officer Ditch Keeling said. “We haven’t had a rat on here for 15 years. It’s really quite bizarre.”

The rat is thought to have come in off a boat and prints had been spotted in five of the island’s 45 tunnels, cunningly built to detect rat-steps.

DoC staff like Mr Keeling had been setting traps through the night.

“You live an adrenaline mode for the first ten days and then you start to get really tired,” Mr Keeling said.

But it was not long before Jack found the elusive rodent.

“Obviously we’re pretty elated,” Ditch Keeling said. “If this is the only rat on the island then we’ve just pulled off the fastest complete eradications ever taken place.”

Close inspection showed the rat was a female. The Department of Conservation will now need to check for signs whether she has ever had babies. And if that is the case, Jack could be making a return trip to the sanctuary.

video of story

Birds moved to new pest free home

Birds moved to new pest free home | NATIONAL | NEWS | tvnz.co.nz

Kaharuai or South Island Robin

Thirty threatened Kakaruai birds have been successfully transferred to New Zealand’s newest sanctuary.

Secretary Island, a 8,000 hectare island at the western end of Doubtful Sound in the Fiordland National Park, will be the new home to the Kaharuai, or South Island Robin.

“It’s fantastic, it’s been a big achievement getting to this point,” says Murray Willians from the Department of Conservation.

They say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush but for DOC it’s the birds in the bush that are important.

“There’s no rodents or possums here, and essentially no stoats and very few deer now too, so it’s essentially clear of introduced animals that cause harm to NZ’s native biodiversity,” says Willians.

The birds were transferred from Breaksea Island following a three year project to rid the island of predators.

Breaksea was the forerunner of the country’s island restoration programme and boasts a population of thousands of Kakaruai, and other threatened species.

Offshore islands play a key role in the battle against introduced pests. Birds like the Saddleback would have been extinct without them.

There used to be thousands of South Island Robins on Secretary Island before Stoats were introduced about a hundred years ago. Now there are none, and DOC is hoping this population of birds brought here, will flourish.

“Seeing and hearing that birdsong and thinking of what it used to be like in the South Island beech forests is quite incredible and quite different to what we see now on the mainland anywhere really,” says Willans.

“These conservation programmes are very important. It’s very important we retain the character of the area,” says John Davies from the Fiordland Conservation Trust.

The programmes will ensure the birds keep singing for generations to come.

original story

Iconic weta being relocated into central Christchurch

TV3 > News > Weather/Environment News > Story > Iconic weta being relocated into central Christchurch

They are not the prettiest in the insect kingdom but weta are an iconic New Zealand species – and they are going places.

Tree weta are being collected on Banks Pensinsula as part of a project to move them back into the city.

Eleven weta are city-bound – being relocated in portable wooden houses to Riccarton Bush, a six hectare block of kahikatea floodplain forest, surrounded by a predator-proof fence in the heart of Christchurch.

John Moore: ”This is the first translocation we’ve had into the bush, this is the first time we’ve reintroduced something back in here, and it is quite exciting for us.”

Researchers say the urban bush will form a natural laboratory and they have plans to add to the eco-system.

“We’re beginning with invertebrates, we’re going to monitor their welfare over the next few years and then move on to the next stage – which is probably to introduce lizards and eventually birds back into the forest.”

full story

link to video

Kiwi sanctuary helping against extinction

TV3 > News > Weather/Environment News > Story > Kiwi sanctuary helping against extinction

They have been nothing more than a distant memory in the Auckland region for more than half a century, but now, kiwis are set to make a return.

Forty of the birds have been transported to the Tawharanui sanctuary from an outlying island.

When a kiwi is lifted from a box the sound is always the same.

Not from the bird, but from people seeing one close up for the first time – ‘Oooh’ and ‘ahhhhh!’

But our national bird is still in great danger of disappearing forever.

One of the biggest threats has always been dogs.

Back in the 1980s a single dog killed 400 kiwis in Northland.

‘Just one dog, so they can be enormously destructive and adult kiwi just don’t have any defence against dogs,’ says Tim Lovegrove, a National Heritage scientist

full story

Long Gully control programme to protect native birds and bush

Greater Wellington – Long Gully control programme to protect native birds and bush
Long Gully Map
Native birds and bush in Long Gully, near the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, will benefit from a possum and rat control operation which begins on Monday 8 October 2007. The operation is part of an ongoing programme to keep possum and rat numbers at low levels.

Long Gully is a strip of bush that includes some private land owners and Wellington Natural Heritage Trust land. It is situated between the suburbs of Karori and Brooklyn and is adjacent to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. Control will be carried out in areas of bush and scrub.

“The programme will be of huge benefit to the native species in the area, as well as to neighbouring properties, creating a safe place for native birds to breed and enabling native trees to regenerate,” says Greater Wellington biosecurity officer Glen Falconer. here for full story

Rare bats landing at Auckland Zoo

Scoop: Rare bats landing at Auckland Zoo

click on the Image by Peter Schouten for more on the short-tailed bat

The Department of Conservation (DOC), Auckland Zoo, and iwi, Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and Rangitane o Wairarapa, are hopeful that the bats will successfully breed to assist the recovery plan for this genetically unique group. The Waiohine Valley population, discovered in the late 1990s, is the only known short-tailed bat population living in the southern North Island, and currently numbers just 200.

Aged between two and three years, the 12 zoo-bound bats have been part of the most ambitious conservation project ever undertaken anywhere in the world for native bats. During 2005 and 2006, this involved DOC taking pregnant females from the wild (Waiohine Valley) to the National Wildlife Centre at Pukaha Mount Bruce until they had given birth and weaned their pups. The females were then returned to Waiohine Valley, and the pups taken to Kapiti Island, held in captivity for several months, and then released on the island. full media release

Rare kiwi thriving on Tiritiri Matangi

Rare kiwi thriving on Tiritiri Matangi: Media releases

Little spotted kiwi have more than doubled in number on their Hauraki Gulf island home in the last five years, according to the results of a recent Department of Conservation survey.

The population of kiwi on Tiritiri Matangi has grown to more than 60 (estimated at 60-80 birds) from about 30 birds in 2002.

DOC scientist Dr Hugh Robertson, who led the survey, said the population was growing strongly, and was as good as could be expected.

“They seem to grow faster on Tiritiri than on other islands due to the rich soils and lack of rats.”

Simon Fordham, chairman of the community group Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi and part of the survey team, said how valuable the experience had been.

“Working with such a unique bird was a real treat and a great opportunity to help with its recovery.” full media release

Forest understory takes off

Whakatikei Restoration project

click on images for larger ( phone camera ) versions

Five finger of various variety , plus many of the broad leaf plants and smaller trees, have very much made a strong comeback, with not only seedlings quite thick on the bush floor in many places, but with many of the third season plants more than two meters tall and bearing flowers, fruit and seed.

this is quite in contrast to both how it was and still is on the other side of the river, this does show quite well that the river, acting as a barrier is working very well with almost no sign of any possum browse anywhere within the forest area currently being looked after .

Honda Tree Fund Community Planting Day

Greater Wellington – Mauriceville community planting day

Mauriceville village will be further enhanced next month with the planting of native trees and shrubs during a HondaTree Fund Community Planting Day. The HondaTree Fund has provided the funding to purchase 300 trees and shrubs for this year’s event along with mulch and fertiliser.

The event has been organised to infill the areas planted during last year’s inaugural community planting day when 1000 native trees and shrubs were planted. more

Rural living field day

Greater Wellington – Rural living field day


20 August 2007

Greater Wellington Regional Council, AgResearch and Wellington City Council are hosting a rural living field day in Ohariu Valley for anyone interested in developing their rural lifestyle block.

Learn about landscape design, including what to plant, where and why and you can also take home a free native plant. Find out about the biodiversity-policy project, water quality testing and weed and pest control. An agricultural vet will be on site to answer any questions and there will be fencing displays. Competitions will be held throughout the day with face painting and a bouncy castle for the kids.

The event is free and will be held, wet or fine, on:

Date Saturday 8 September
Time 10.00am – 4.00pm
Venue Craig Shepherd and Julie Sammut’s property
583 Ohariu Valley Road
Ohariu Valley, Wellington

The biodiversity-policy project has been established in the Wellington region by Greater Wellington, Wellington City Council, Porirua City Council, the University of Waikato and AgResearch. The Foundation of Research, Science and Technology is assisting with part of the funding. Over the next two years the project team is working with the people of the Ohariu and Makara catchments to provide information about water quality in the streams, how landowner activities are likely to be affecting water quality, bush regeneration and how to improve life in the catchment for the community and biodiversity.

Science Supports Forest Regeneration

 

A kereru fitted with transmitter

Scientific research being carried out in the Ngāi Tūhoe forests in
the central North Island is delivering valuable knowledge about
indigenous forest ecosystems and giving Maori landowners tools to
restore and preserve their native forest resource.

Over the past four years, Landcare Research scientists have been
working with the Tuawhenua Trust, to investigate why some canopy tree
species in the mainly forest-covered 10,000 hectares of land which is
dotted through the Urewera National Park and are managed by the Trust,
are not regenerating adequately.
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Lifetime’s Work Wins Top Book Award

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Eagle’s Complete Trees and Shrubs of New
Zealand, a book that took author and painter, Audrey Eagle
more than 50 years to complete, is the winner of the 2007
Montana Medal for non fiction.

The two-volume work
contains more than 800 hand painted plates; images of every
single New Zealand tree and shrub, some of which are now
extinct. more

Karori Sanctuary, tour by torchlight

Spotting ‘little spots’ on Wellington’s wildest night out

Sanctuary Entry Gates

Wellington’s wildest night out just got even better! Throughout July and August, we are running a special two-for-one deal on our unique nocturnal tours. Conditions apply.

Take a tour by torchlight through New Zealand’s native forest at night. Your guide will help you to spot morepork, tuatara, glow-worms and weka. And if you hear a snuffling and a rustling in the bushes, it will probably be one of our rare little spotted kiwi – there are over 100 living wild in this magical valley! Tours depart nightly, with transport available to and from town for an extra $10pp.

Places are limited, so call 04 920 9213 to avoid disappointment!

Tour cost: $45 adult, $20 children (minimum age 12 years). 2-4-1 offer applies to PHONE BOOKINGS ONLY. more

Research looks at native trees, carbon emissions

Scoop: Research looks at native trees, carbon emissions

rimu and miro in the whakatikei river valley

rimu and miro in the whakatikei river valley

Are our native trees adding to or reducing New Zealand’s carbon emissions? That’s the question Rotorua scientists are hoping to answer with one of their current research projects.

Two projects investigating native trees and carbon emissions are underway at Ensis, the unincorporated joint venture between Crown Research Institute Scion in Rotorua, and Australia’s CSIRO.

Dr Peter Beets, senior scientist at Ensis, is leading a research programme looking at developing tools to predict native tree carbon emissions. “Our aim is to work out the amount of carbon that is being absorbed by living trees and the amount of carbon that is being released when trees die and decay.

“We hope to find out if native trees actually reduce the country’s overall emissions at all, or if the emissions the trees make just cancels any benefit,” Dr Beets says.
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