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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

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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

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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

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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

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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  ……

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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

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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

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