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

Keeping corals alive

Published 21 June 2011

Studying something that his children’s children may never see adds a certain urgency and poignancy to Simon Davy’s daily routine.

The United Kingdom-born associate professor in Victoria’s School of Biological Sciences is New Zealand’s only active coral symbiosis physiologist. His research focus is on the symbiotic relationship between algae and invertebrates, such as corals, and coral bleaching and disease.

Coral reefs cover just a fraction of the planet—estimated to be an area about the size of New Zealand—but are a vital part of the marine eco system and the economies of communities that rely on them for food, fish, building materials and tourism dollars.

“It’s old news to us that the reefs are going to die within 50 to 100 years,” says Dr Davy. “Climate change is the longer term threat but pollution and practises such as dynamite fishing are, if anything, a bigger problem because they are working much faster.”

Some years back, Dr Davy and a colleague were the first scientists to discover viruses in corals and the breakthrough sparked his interest in the broader topic of coral diseases.

He says corals are highly complex. They contain tiny algae which process light energy and provide the host with essential nutrients. When water temperatures rise, the micro-algae are expelled and the coral loses its colour and may die.

Full story from the Victoria research team.

Zealandia no sanctuary for kakariki

Rare kakariki have fallen prey to falcons at wildlife sanctuary Zealandia.

Conservation manager Raewyn Empson said staff believed there was just one pair of native falcons at the sanctuary, but they were believed to be responsible for attacks on two kakariki.

New Zealand falcons are rarer than kiwi, and can catch prey while flying – sometimes at speeds of up to 230kmh.

“They are our top predator so they will take various items of prey, primarily birds.”

Falcon pairs were absent from Wellington for decades, but their return has come at a cost. Two years ago four falcon chicks fledged at Zealandia, while last year one did.

Falcons found their way to the predator-proof sanctuary in 2009, when their successful breeding attempt made them the first pair to breed in Wellington since the 1970s.

However, juveniles are thought to stray far from their parents and were not thought to be responsible for bird deaths at the sanctuary.

Last year, a bellbird was killed at the sanctuary, and now two red crowned kakariki are thought to have suffered the same fate. “One got caught and taken away, we don’t know what happened. The other one, just a pile of feathers were found. Unfortunately no legs.”

The kakariki were likely to have been young birds, and others watching the events would have learnt valuable lessons, Ms Empson said.

“All it takes is a couple of instances and the rest think, ‘Oh, better watch out for that one’.”

Full story on Stuff.co.nz

Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust

http://www.nzfalcon.org.nz/

Rare all-white kiwi chick caps a spectacular breeding season

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

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

Lack of UV light harming tuatara

https://i2.wp.com/aes.eriophora.com.au/images/jpg/enlarge/tuatara3.jpg

Some New Zealand tuatara facilities have been inadvertently harming their endangered charges by enclosing them without sufficient light, new research shows.

Without full-spectrum lighting, tuatara can suffer nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (NSHP), which causes bones to break and other painful conditions.

Ultraviolet (UV) light produces vitamin D, which helps the bones absorb calcium.

Research published by Massey University in the January issue of the New Zealand Veterinary Journal shows four of the 18 tuatara facilities examined in New Zealand (five overseas zoos keep tuatara) were using ineffective UV light sources and others were not supplying enough.

“The results of this study showed a significant proportion of tuatara in New Zealand are not provided with sufficient access to ultraviolet B light for the synthesis of vitamin D, which may acerbate the problems created by a poor diet,” the study said.

“Furthermore, a clear relationship was demonstrated between the availability of light and the historical risk of NSHP for animals kept indoors.”

It does not mention facilities by name or whether the problem had led to deaths.

Tuatara Recovery Group captive-management co-ordinator Barbara Blanchard, of Wellington, who helped with the study, said Christchurch’s Orana Wildlife Park had been the first to “pick up” the problem, which was then identified in a North Island facility.

All facilities had been told to ensure their tuatara had access to UV light equivalent “to what you see on a cloudy day in New Zealand”.

She said more research on the optimum UV light for tuatara was needed.

full story on stuff

Wikipedia tuatara

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

Crimson Christmases to come

Pohutukawa on coast

A thousand pohutukawa trees are being made available for planting on the Coromandel as part of efforts to get more of the iconic New Zealand trees flowering on the peninsula.

Regional council Environment Waikato and the Project Crimson Trust are partnering up for the project which will see the 1000 pohutukawa distributed to Coromandel landowners next winter.

“The aim is to get more pohutukawa established to help this much-loved species survive, and to ensure that future generations can enjoy the red Christmases the Coromandel is well known for,” said Environment Waikato land management officer Matt Highway.

“These trees will also support Peninsula Project soil conservation initiatives, improving biodiversity, water quality and soil stability,” said Mr. Highway.

EW will distribute the seedlings to landowners via the Peninsula Project soil conservation programme. They will also collect local pohutukawa and rata seed, which will be ready for planting in three years. This eco-sourcing ensures the distinctiveness of Coromandel plants and ecosystems.

Project Crimson Trust executive director Bridget Abernethy said: “We like partnering with organisations like Environment Waikato. We can take comfort that these trees are going to go to the most appropriate locations, that they will be planted by caring communities and that they will be protected for future generations.”

The Project Crimson Trust, set up in partnership with Meridian Energy and the Department of Conservation, is dedicated to the protection and enhancement of New Zealand’s pohutukawa and rata trees. Project Crimson Trust is celebrating 20 years this February 2010.

In 1989 around 90 per cent of the original area of pohutukawa in New Zealand was thought to have been lost. Much of what remained had been ravaged by possums, with very little regeneration evident. Since 1990, Project Crimson volunteers have planted almost half a million pohutukawa across New Zealand.

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

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

New Zealand seeking a world heritage night sky reserve for Tekapo Aoraki-Mt Cook.

2010 – pivotal in seeking to secure world night sky reserve for New Zealand
Next year is pivotal to the success of New Zealand seeking a world heritage night sky reserve for Tekapo Aoraki-Mt Cook

A UNESCO World Heritage meeting in Brasilia in June will be crucial to New Zealand’s chances, leader of the Working party bid former Cabinet minister Margaret Austin says.

“We are launching a nationwide campaign in the lead up to the Brasilia conference next year, so we can tell the public people this project has real and exciting potential particularly in the lead up to the Brasilia conference.’’

Austin says there has been a reluctance to acknowledge that the stars and starlight are significant to human heritage under UNESCO conventions.  But there is a groundswell of public concern at the extent to which people no longer see the stars in so many parts of the world and we need a source of income to achieve our goal of world heritage and international support.

The key milestone this year was getting the Tekapo Aoraki/Mt Cook starlight reserve working party up and running so the bid could demonstrate their commitment to the project. With the backing of the Mackenzie District Council there is a belief that astro-tourism, education and awareness of the significance of the dark sky and appreciation of the cultural history for Maori can be realised in the next few years.

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

New homes lined up in bid to rescue rare kiwi

Dozens of rare West Coast kiwi may be moved away from their ancestral homes to islands in the Hauraki Gulf and Foveaux Strait in a desperate attempt to save the species from extinction.

The Department of Conservation says it has to create back-up populations, away from stoats, to avert extinction.

Although some Haast and Okarito Rowi kiwi chicks are already raised away from predators, they are returned to their home forest in South Westland when they are large enough to fight off stoats.

Under new proposals, DoC wants to move breeding pairs of Okarito birds to the sub-tropical Motuihe Island in the Hauraki Gulf, near Auckland, and up to 10 Haast birds to Rarotoka Island, in Foveaux Strait.

full story

New Zealanders asked to help Stop Dolphin Extinction

Scoop: NZers asked to help Stop Dolphin Extinction


click on image for a larger version

Stop Their Extinction launches today (Friday 21 September) with a national day of action, when teams of WWF volunteers and students from university environmental campaign network SANE (Students of Aotearoa Network for our Earth) will take to the streets in Auckland, Dunedin, Hamilton, Palmerston North and Wellington asking New Zealanders to sign the Stop Their Extinction petition.

Marie Haley, Marine Coordinator for SANE said: “This is our opportunity to tell the government what we want for Hector’s and Maui’s. So, it’s in our hands – right now we all have a chance to stop our dolphins from becoming extinct, which is incredible. Would we as a nation say no to the protection of the kiwi or the kakapo ?

full press release

www.stoptheirextinction.org.nz