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.
Climate change increases value of Kiwi native plant
The golden sand sedge – pingao – has won the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network’s 2009 favourite plant poll, and could be a valuable defence against climate change effects.
The pingao topped more than 100 species in the annual poll. Network President Philippa Crisp said that pingao would become increasingly important in combating the effects of climate change, particularly as an increasing number of coastal homes came under threat
“If the global plan to fight climate change stalls and sea level rises occur, pingao will become even more important to New Zealanders because it plays an important role in stabilising sand dunes and creating a beach contour that is not so vulnerable to storm events and sea level rises,” Dr Crisp said. “Pingao may be our only sustainable hope for coastal protection”.
New Zealand’s top predator makes spectacular return to the capital
Conservation staff at the groundbreaking ZEALANDIA eco-sanctuary in Wellington believe they have found the first New Zealand falcons to have hatched in the city since the species disappeared as a breeding population in the Seventies.
“It’s an extremely significant discovery,” said ZEALANDIA conservation manager Raewyn Empson
“Although there are quite a few breeding pairs in the Hutt Vally and Eastbourne, they haven’t bred in Wellington city for decades! And they are hanging around right next to the main track, so it really is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these powerful predators up close and in their element”
This time last year, ZEALANDIA staff found the capital’s first ever recorded nest, very close to where this year’s fledgings are hanging out. Unfortunately, the nest had been abandoned before any eggs were laid. A second nest, this time with eggs in it, was found in July – incredibly early for falcons – but that also failed.
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.”
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.
New Zealand has received the worst possible ranking, last amongst 130 countries, for its protection of threatened species, according to the World Economic Forum’s latest Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report (T&TCR)
Care for the Wild International chief executive, Dr Barbara Maas, who is currently in New Zealand, says, “The T&TCR provides a timely wake-up call for New Zealand as the Government considers what protection will be afforded to the endangered Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins.”
The comprehensive T&TCR report ranks nations’ international competitiveness as a tourism destination. This year New Zealand dropped five places overall to 19th out of 130 countries as the report took a greater focus on environmental sustainability to reflect the increasing importance visitors place on countries’ environmental performance. Last year New Zealand ranked 14th, just behind Australia but in this year’s report, Australia was ranked fourth while New Zealand’s ranking fell five places.
“New Zealanders rightly take great pride in their country’s ‘clean &green’ credentials. However, despite making progress in some areas, this report shows that when it comes to caring for native wildlife, this perception is simply not based on reality.”
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.”