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Press Release: Pukaha

We are delighted to let you be the first to know of the hatching of a white kiwi chick at Pukaha. As far as we know this is the first hatched in captivity and definitely the first hatched at Pukaha. This exciting event marks the end of the most successful kiwi breeding season in Pukaha’s history with a total of 14 chicks hatched.

The all-white chick is not an albino but the rare offspring off kiwi that were transferred from Little Barrier Island to Pukaha in May last year. The intention of the transfer was to increase the kiwi gene pool and grow the population in the long-term so we are delighted with this great result. The chick is a North Island Brown kiwi that is white.

Local iwi and Pukaha Mount Bruce partner, Rangitane o Wairarapa, has named the chick Manukura which means chiefly status. Rangitane chief executive and Pukaha board member, Jason Kerehi, said tribal elders saw the white chick as a tohu or a sign of new beginnings.

“Every now and then something extraordinary comes along to remind you of how special life is. While we are celebrating all 14 kiwi hatched this year, Manukura is a very special gift.”

Your chance to see Manukura in our kiwi house

Manukura will be in the kiwi nursery until the end of May where you may view it being weighed daily at 2.00pm. It will remain in captivity with our other chicks for at least four to six months and there will be the opportunity to for regular viewings while it is being cared for. The health and safety of this very special chick is our priority.

Please feel free to phone ahead to make sure it is available. We would love to see you.

www.pukaha.org.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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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

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