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.

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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.

The Nature Collection

NZ 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 ›

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

WHO’S A SQUAWKY BOY THEN

Kaka

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

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

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

Climate change increases value of native plant

Monday, 21 December 2009, 11:12 am
Press Release: NZ Plant Conservation Network

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”.

full media release on scoop.co.nz

Top predator makes spectacular return to capitalHutt Vally

Scoop: Top predator makes spectacular return to capital
Fledgling NZ Falcon. Photo by Tom Lynch, ZEALANDIA/Karori Sanctuary Trust.
Photo by Tom Lynch, ZEALANDIA/Karori Sanctuary Trust.
Click to enlarge

Press Release: Zealandia

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.

full media realease on scoop.co.nz

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

First kaka chick of breeding season banded

First kaka chick of breeding season banded | Stuff.co.nz
kaka

ROBERT KITCHIN/ The Dominion Post

Just minutes out of the nest and the terrified chick found himself having two feathers pulled out, a microchip inserted and numerous measurements taken.

Yellow Mauve Lime, named after his leg band colours, was the first kaka chick of this year’s breeding season to be banded at Zealandia wildlife sanctuary in Karori on Thursday.

The 538-gram native was a “brave frontrunner” which underwent the experience calmly, Conservation officer Matu Booth said.

As Mr Booth inserted almost his whole arm into the heart of Yellow Mauve Lime’s nest, the mother bird and five other kaka squawked overhead but eventually calmed down.

The chick also settled down, and Mr Booth said banding kaka was much more enjoyable than banding other birds, partly because kaka chicks were relatively big and easier to handle.

Full story on stuff

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

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.

full

First tuatara nest found in 200 years

First tuatara nest found in 200 years – 01 Nov 2008 – NZ Herald: New Zealand and International environment and global warming news
An adult male tuatara at Karori Sanctuary and (inset) the clutch of eggs - the first nest found on mainland NZ for 200 years. Photos / Supplied

The first confirmed tuatara nest in over 200 years on mainland New Zealand has been discovered at the Karori Sanctuary in Wellington.

Sanctuary staff uncovered the four ping-pong-ball-sized leathery white eggs yesterday during routine maintenance work near the sanctuary’s mammal-proof fence.

Raewyn Empson said that about this time last year staff had found a gravid (egg-carrying) female.

The eggs would have been laid almost exactly a year ago in a shallow trench dug by the female and then backfilled.

“We knew of two suspected nests but didn’t want to disturb them to confirm whether or not they contained eggs.”

The nest had been uncovered by accident and was the first concrete proof that the sanctuary’s tuatara were breeding.

Ms Empson suggested there might be other nests in the sanctuary.

The eggs had been immediately covered up again to avoid disturbing their incubation.

Although only four eggs were unearthed, it was likely that there were more in the nest as an average clutch contained around 10 eggs.

full story

Longer breeding season provides new hope for the kiwi

New hope for the kiwi

It might be down to global warming or just a couple of shorter winters on the trot, but whatever the reason, the kiwi breeding season is getting longer – the kiwi bird that is.

That is good news for those working to ensure the survival of the North Island brown kiwi as Ali Ikram found out.

Watch TV3 video