Rare Hector’s dolphin seen in Wellington harbour

Press Release – Department of Conservation
A Hector’s dolphin – the world’s smallest and rarest marine dolphin – was spotted in Wellington harbour yesterday after last being seen in 2009.

The dolphin was sighted at Mahanga Bay yesterday afternoon by a member of the public, who reported the sighting to DOC today. They said that the dolphin had “spent about five minutes zooming under and around the boat (with the engine in neutral) before disappearing”. A spectator on shore reported seeing two dolphins, but only one animal was seen from the boat.

The first live record of a Hector’s dolphin in Wellington Harbour was in January 2009. Several sightings of the dolphin were made during the summer and autumn of 2009, with photo and video evidence taken, but there have been no further sightings in the harbour until now. There have been several sightings of possibly the same animal around the Kapiti coast last year.

full press release on scoop.co.nz

First wild kakī chick to hatch this season raises hope

Tuesday, 8 November 2011, 10:52 am
Press Release: Department of Conservation

First wild kakī chick to hatch this season raises hope

The first wild kakī/black stilt chick has emerged from its shell and raises hope after a disappointing start to the 2011 breeding season.

“With the hatching of this wild chick it is now starting to feel like the breeding season is underway. It has been a very late start. The first wild eggs would normally be hatching in October,” explained Liz Brown, DOC Aviculturist.

“We are also down on the number of eggs we are incubating this year at our Captive Breeding Centre in Twizel. We have 30 eggs currently incubating compared with a consistent tally of around 60 eggs over previous seasons,” states Liz.

“The captive birds have been laying later than normal both in Twizel and at Isaacs Wildlife Trust in Christchurch.”

A decline in nesting behaviour seems to be a general trend amongst all braided river birds this year. The region experienced snow in mid October which caused desertion of some nests. This was then followed by floods shortly after which delays re-nesting.

Every spring, native river birds flock to braided rivers to breed.

“From early September until late January those out enjoying braided rivers are asked to be considerate of our fragile nesting birds,” says Liz.

“They nest on the ground and can be very hard to see, especially from a 4WD vehicle. It is better for the birds welfare if you walk to your favourite angling spot rather than drive.”

“Birds that are swooping, circling or calling loudly probably have nests nearby. Move away so that they can return to their nests and look after their chicks.”

The wild egg was collected by Department of Conservation rangers from a pair of adult kakī nesting on braided river gravels. It has taken 25 days to hatch. More eggs collected from the wild are expected to hatch within a few days.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Background information

Kakī/Black Stilts are one of the rarest waders in the world. Threat classification is nationally critical.

Kakī were once common throughout New Zealand, now mostly found in Mackenzie/Waitaki basins

Other riverbed birds migrate in winter, kakī will stay in the braided rivers of Canterbury/North Otago high country and forage for food

Main threat to the population is predation by feral cats, stoats, weasels and ferrets. Hedgehogs will eat eggs.

Wild population was reduced to only 23 birds in 1981. In August 2011 the wild population was approx 170 birds.

Six adult breeding pairs are held in captivity. Four pairs are held in Twizel at the Captive Breeding Centre. Two pairs are held in Christchurch at the Isaacs Wildlife Trust.

http://www.doc.govt.nz/kaki

Dead kea dumped at Arthur’s Pass were shot

Wednesday, 17 August 2011, 9:48 am
Press Release: Department of Conservation

Dead kea dumped at Arthur’s Pass were shot

Preliminary autopsy results from five dead kea dumped near Arthur’s Pass have confirmed that the birds were shot.

The initial pathology report from Massey University said evidence pointed to the use of an air-rifle and a shotgun to kill the five kea.

DOC Field Centre Supervisor, Chris Stewart, said, “We are appalled by this sort of behaviour and we have referred the matter to the NZ Police.”

“Kea are endangered and their wild population could be as low as 1000 birds,” said Stewart.

The full report will not be available until later this week but the initial results will assist the Police and DOC with their ongoing enquiries.

“The results also showed that all five animals were young and healthy and could have gone on to contribute to future generations of the species”

Under the Wildlife Act, it is a criminal offence to kill kea. Offenders could face a $100,000 fine or six months in prison.

The birds were found piled up on a picnic table at Klondyke Corner in Arthur’s Pass on Monday morning last week. Anyone who was in the area around Klondyke Corner over the weekend of 6-7 August are asked to ring the NZ Police, the 0800 DOCHOTline – 0800 36 24 68 or the Arthur’s Pass Field Centre.

The incident occurred in the same week that a dead kea was dumped on the driveway of a DOC staff member on the West Coast. Early indications are that this bird was also shot and this case has been referred to the Police.

Questioning Happy Feet, unhappy ending?

You’re out walking through forest or along a beach. You find an injured bird. Maybe you find many, maybe thousands, like residents of the Kapiti Coast did recently when a southerly storm delivered a “prion wreck” to our shores. What should you do?

The prion-wreck last month was a natural event. Prion-wrecks occur every 10-30 years or so, although this was a big one. Most were broad-billed prions and New Zealand is home to more than a million of them. They are also common in Argentina, Australia, Falkland Islands, Peru, South Africa and many of the islands in between.

Emperor penguins, like Happy Feet who recently stole our hearts and “swallowed” our cash, are also remarkably common in the wild with an enormous range across Antarctica. These species are not rare, vulnerable or endangered. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists them as of ‘least concern’.

Full story on stuff.co.nz

Related story: Happy Feet’s priceless publicity

The right time for southern right whales

Press Release: Department of Conservation

The Department of Conservation is calling on the public to take photos and report any sightings of southern right whales along the New Zealand coastline.

Photos collected through public sightings are being used to support the Otago University research looking at photo identification and the movement patterns of these whales.

Any southern right whale sightings should be reported immediately to the DOC hotline, 0800 DOCHOT (0800 36 24 68). If photos are taken, instructions will be given on how to upload these to the Department’s Flickr page.

The Department’s response to public sightings from past years provides data for research being conducted by Auckland University and Otago University. Photos will give the Department information to better understand and protect the whales.

Dr. Will Rayment, leader of Otago University’s research programme, says pictures sent in by the public are really useful for investigating how southern right whales move around in New Zealand’s coastal waters.

Previously, genetic research was relied on to study the whales’ movement from the Subantarctic Islands to the mainland. Dr Rayment says photos from last year enabled confirmation of this link between the two regions.

full media release on Scoop.co.nz

Stunning photopraph of a Southern Right Whale (large image and story)

Emperor penguin visits the Kapiti Coast

Large version of photograph

Press Release: Department of Conservation

Kapiti Coast residents have been treated to a rare visit by an emperor penguin. There is only one other recording of an emperor penguin in New Zealand, at Southland’s Oreti Beach in the 1967.

The Department of Conservation advises that people should not disturb the penguin and ensure that dogs are kept on leads in the area. Penguins can give vicious bites if they feel threatened. If left alone it is expected that the bird will eventually swim back out to sea.

It is not known why these birds that reside in the Antarctic would visit New Zealand shores.

“It’s amazing to see one of these penguins on the Kapiti Coast,” said DOC biodiversity spokesperson Peter Simpson.

“Unusual animals from the Antarctic sometimes visit our shores, but we really don’t know why”,

Department of Conservation staff were first alerted by Kapiti resident Christine Wilton who was walking her dog on Monday afternoon at Peka Peka Beach.

“I saw this glistening white thing standing up and I thought I was seeing things,” Ms Wilton said.

She contacted DOC’s Waikanae office and rangers went to investigate. They saw what looked like a big white ball in the sand. It stood up, looking quite relaxed and in good condition. It was later confirmed that the majestic visitor is a juvenile emperor penguin standing at about 1 metre tall.

Emperor penguins are the largest penguins, adults reaching more than a metre tall and weighing up to 30kg. They feed on fish, krill, squid and a wide range of marine invertebrates and hold the diving record at 450 metres deep and 11 minutes underwater.

If members of the public see this emperor penguin at another beach or to report unusual or injured marine animals contact the DOC HOTline: 0800 362 468.
Visit www.doc.govt.nz for more information on penguins.

Story on Scoop.co.nz

Story and video on Stuff.co.nz

White kiwi chick graduates from nursery

Thursday, 2 June 2011, 12:13 pm
Press Release: Pukaha Mount Bruce

White kiwi chick

Manukura, the white kiwi chick hatched on 1 May at Pukaha Mount Bruce, yesterday got its first feel for the outside world when it graduated from the centre’s kiwi house nursery to an outdoor enclosure in the forest reserve.

After reaching its required weight and all the expected milestones, including eating on its own, the chick was moved to a predator-proof enclosure in the Pukaha native reserve where 12 other chicks have been raised this season.

Manukura was the 13th of 14 kiwi chicks hatched at the National Wildlife Centre this breeding season, the most successful there ever. The 14thchick remains will remain in the kiwi house nursery for the next week.

Thought to be the first white kiwi chick hatched in captivity, Manukura will remain in the outdoor enclosure for the next 4-6 months subject to its behaviour and welfare. Visitors to the centre will be able to see the special kiwi each Sunday at 2pm after he has been weighed by Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers.

When the fertile egg was retrieved from the Pukaha native forest and brought into captivity with others to be incubated and hatched, DoC staff at the national wildlife centre had no inkling as to what was inside. When he saw the white chick hatch, captive breeding ranger Darren Page said his first thought was “oh this one’s going to create a stir.”

Pukaha Mount Bruce manager Kathy Houkamau said staff excitement and global interest in Manukura had been matched by that of visitors on seeing the white chick. “We have had good crowds through over the past week and people have been genuinely thrilled to have the opportunity to see it. People see it as a sign of good things.”

A Facebook page to track Manukura’s progress has been set up by the centre.

Background information and photos on scoop.co.nz

Let wonderfully weird kakapo die – scientist

It might not be worth trying to save the kakapo, the critically endangered native bird that has been on the brink of extinction for decades, an Australian scientist says.

Instead, resources should go into saving species that have more chance of recovering and surviving in the evolving environment.

“It’s a wonderfully weird creature and it’s a shame that we will probably lose it regardless of any interventions. Harsh, but somebody’s got to say it,” said Cory Bradshaw, of the University of Adelaide’s director of ecological modelling.

Using a mathematical formula, Professor Bradshaw and colleagues from Adelaide and James Cook University, in northern Queensland, created a new index called Safe (Species’ Ability to Forestall Extinction), which ranks the probability of animals becoming extinct based on population.

The index goes a step further than the Red List of Threatened Species, produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which ranks animals and plants in categories from safe to critically endangered.

“It really comes down to accounting, are we deliberately or inadvertently losing hundreds if not thousands of species by putting money into species that are a lost cause? That doesn’t mean we go out and knock every one on its head though,” Professor Bradshaw said.

Other endangered animals that could be left to die off because of unsustainable population levels, according to the index, include Australian’s hairy-nosed wombat and the Javan rhinoceros.

The Conservation Department said it would look at the merits of the index but said it would continue to support the Kakapo Recovery Programme.

“DOC is very proud of the work that’s been done to save the kakapo and we’ve no intention of letting them go,” spokesman Chris Pitt said.

Full story on stuff.co.nz

ERRRRRR, YEA RIGHT  ……

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

Forests dying as kereru numbers fall

Our already silent forests are dying.

Scientists have proved for the first time the alarming rates of decline in regeneration of native tree species that rely on kereru, or native pigeons, to disperse seeds.

In two forests, they have found regeneration has fallen by up to 84 per cent over two years. However, they fear the problem could be far worse in other areas in which bird populations are much lower.

Canterbury university plant ecology professor Dave Kelly said researchers were taken aback by their findings. “It was a surprise for us how big the effect was and how long it was lasting for.”

At one extreme, the researchers said regeneration of trees could fail completely, leaving forests full of dying adult trees and eventually lead to the collapse of mature forests.

Dr Kelly, with Landcare Research ecologist Debra Wotton, studied native taraire and karaka trees in two forests less than 100 hectares in size.

Taraire rely exclusively, and karaka almost exclusively, on kereru to disperse their fruit, which are too big for other smaller birds to eat.

Although it was already believed that falling populations of kereru were having an impact on seed dispersal, it was the first time the link has been proved and assessed.

Full story on Stuff.co.nz

Photograph by Jim Stevens

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

Baby Tuatara Hatches on Matiu/Somes Island

Thursday, 28 January 2010, 11:12 am
Press Release: Department of Conservation


A photograph taken of a baby tuatara on Wellington Harbour’s Matiu/Somes Island this month has confirmed for the first time that the rare reptiles are hatching on the island.

The juvenile, just a few months old and about 8cm long, was spotted by Harriot (8) and Nicholas Lane (10) and their cousin Harrison Vernon (11) while they were walking around the island with their grandparents Bob and Suzanne Vernon.

Tuatara were transferred to Matiu/Somes in 1998 and since then adult tuatara are regularly seen on the island. It has long been suspected that they are breeding, and this was finally proven when eggs were found on the island in 2007 and hatched at Victoria University.

But this is the first confirmation that young tuatara have hatched on the island itself.

full media release on scoop.co.nz

Artificial insemination may save Kakapos

File:Buller Kakapo.jpg

DOC has managed to breed two kakapo using artificial insemination in what’s being hailed as a world first and a boost for critically-endangered birds everywhere.

Kakapo are notoriously slow to reproduce, and DOC hopes the breakthrough will now ensure the birds’ survival.

There are only 124 kakapo in existence, but with the help of artificial insemination, or AI, they may just be able to claw their way back from the brink of extinction.

“It’s just a fantastic tool for us to protect the future population of kakapo against further inbreeding, and also hopefully improve fertility rates,” says DOC’s Deirdre Vercoe.

“It’s a real breakthrough, a scientific breakthrough to achieve AI in a wild bird like this,” says Forest & Bird’s Chris Todd.

With more than 50 percent of kakapo eggs infertile, associate professor Ian Jameison says AI is a revolutionary tool in the fight for their survival.

full tv3 story and video

Tragic week for NZ’s rarest breeding bird – Video

black and white fronted terns

It has been a tragic week for the fairy tern, New Zealand’s rarest breeding bird.

Earlier in the week, two eggs went missing at Waipu cove along with two chicks. Now two eggs have gone missing at Mangawhai Wildlife Reserve.

When there are fewer than 40 of these birds left, any loss is massive.

“You can see we’ve got good signage over there, so I don’t think anyone could have mistaken it,” said Abby Marr from the Department of Conservation.

Ms Marr is puzzled; unlike last week in Waipu this case appears to involve a person as opposed to a predator.

“This one is a little more unusual in that we did have human prints going up towards where the eggs were,” Ms Marr says.

full tv3 story and video

Kakariki breeding on Motutapu 1st time in 100 yrs

December 3, 2009


Click for big version

Kakariki breeding on Motutapu for first time in 100 years

They’ve been gone for more than 100 years, but last week, a family of red-crowned parakeets was spotted flying down from the trees in a peaceful gully on Motutapu.

Luis Ortiz-Catedral, parakeet specialist and Massey University PhD student, says one of the birds was clearly a recently fledged juvenile that must have hatched on the island.

“I estimate it fledged about two weeks ago considering the size of the tail, the colouration of the beak and also because it was still being fed by its parents,” he says.

Red-crowned parakeets — one of five main species of kakariki — were recorded on Motutapu in September by the Ornithological Society of New Zealand (OSNZ). The OSNZ conducts bird surveys for the Motutapu Restoration Trust every year. Mr Ortiz-Catedral joined them last week to look for signs of breeding parakeets.

Only the male of the pair was banded, and had been released on nearby pest-free Motuihe eight months ago.

Motutapu and Rangitoto are on their way to becoming pest-free after the Department of Conservation began a two-year campaign to rid the islands of seven remaining mammalian pests in June this year.

Full story on scoop

NZ On Screen, The Nature Collection

nature-topper

NZ Nature on screen

To celebrate NZ’s unique natural taonga, Peter Hayden has curated a highlights collection from three decades of NHNZ productions. Aotearoa’s landforms and its magnificent menagerie of natural oddities – birds, insects, trees like nowhere else on the planet – are showcased in 15 award-winning titles. From Discovery Channel and David Bellamy, to Wild South and Our World classics.

Read More ›

http://www.nzonscreen.com/collection/nature

Sirocco the kakapo an online phenomenon

07 October 2009

This week’s screening of the BBC’s “Last Chance to See” programme featuring New Zealand’s own conservation ambassador Sirocco the kākāpō, has catapulted kākāpō recovery into the international spotlight.

Department of Conservation staff have been amazed by the response that viewers of the “Last Chance to See” programme, starring Stephen Fry and Mark Cawardine, has evoked from the British public.

“His Facebook page alone jumped from 600 friends to over 2000 friends in the 48 hours following the broadcast of the kākāpō episode of “Last Chance to See”,” said Sirocco’s media advisor Nic Vallance from the Department of Conservation.

“And the Youtube clip of him getting ‘up close and personal’ with presenter Mark Cawardine has resulted in well over half a million hits.”

The show “Last Chance to See” is a remake of the series that the late Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardine recorded for radio and published a book on in 1990.

Many of the comments posted on Sirocco’s rapidly growing Facebook page send words of support and encouragement to kākāpō recovery as well as many offers of donations to continue to increase the survival of the kākāpō.

“The international interest in kākāpō is just fantastic,” said Vallance.

Scoop: 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.

full

Match-making on Mana Island

A blind date with one of six eligible bachelors awaits a young female takahe when she is released onto Mana Island today. The seven-month-old bird, named Moa, will be paired with a single male on the island in the hope that they’ll eventually breed.

Moa became sick early last week and was airlifted from her home at the Burwood takahe recovery unit near Te Anau to Massey’s wildlife ward. Lecturer in avian and wildlife health Kerri Morgan says she was near death’s door.

“She arrived exhibiting severe neurological symptoms and was very underweight. Tests showed a high level of the parasite coccidia in her system. We treated her for that and she’s recovered quickly.”

Ms Morgan says takahe don’t usually respond well to hospital treatment.

“They lose weight because they get stressed easily, but we gave Moa the penthouse suite in the ward and brought in native grasses for her to feed on, which she obviously appreciated.”

Department of Conservation staff will take Moa to Mana Island this morning, where she’ll be kept in isolation with her new mate.

The Department’s ranger on the island Sue Caldwell says the scientific reserve, off the coast of Porirua, is short of female takahe.

“It makes sense to bring her here. We’ll try and pair her with one of the six single males on the island. Males who aren’t paired cause trouble in the pre-breeding season that begins in late August, so hopefully we can get a fairytale ending here.”

Massey University – article