New Zealand blue whales research

This 2017 video says about itself:

See Blue Whales Lunge For Dinner in Beautiful Drone Footage | National Geographic

Scientists filming in the South Ocean off the coast of New Zealand captured this stunning footage of a blue whale eating a mass of krill. The whales can grow up to the length of three school buses and require a lot of energy to accelerate in the water. They speed up to about 6.7 miles just before consuming the krill, and the act of opening their mouth slows them down to about 1.1 miles per hour. They then have to expend even more energy to get back up to speed. All of this energy spent may lead the whales to be picky eaters, if the mass of krill is too small they may swim through without opening their mouth to feed.

From Oregon State University in the USA:

New Zealand has its own population of blue whales

May 17, 2018

A group of blue whales that frequent the South Taranaki Bight (STB) between the North and South islands of New Zealand appears to be part of a local population that is genetically distinct from other blue whales in the Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean, a new study has found.

The whales show a high level of residency, researchers say, as hydrophones deployed in the region recorded blue whale calls on 99.7 percent of the days between January and December in 2016.

The study, led by Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, is important because the South Taranaki Bight has several oil and gas extraction rigs and the New Zealand government recently issued its first permit for mining the seafloor there for iron sands.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Endangered Species Research.

“We had five hydrophones deployed for two years in the STB and we never heard any Australian blue whale calls — just the local New Zealand population”, said Leigh Torres, a principal investigator with OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute and co-author on the study. “When we conducted biopsies of individual whales, we also discovered that they are genetically distinct from other blue whale populations.”

This journey of discovery began in 2011 when a colleague told Torres that observers aboard seismic survey vessels had spotted nine blue whales. Torres thought it was unusual, and began looking at whaling records, which suggested the South Taranaki Bight region historically was a minor “hotspot” for blue whale activity.

She then assessed oceanographic patterns and found documentation of local upwelling that “supports aggregation of a certain krill species that blue whales like to eat.”

In 2013, Torres wrote a paper hypothesizing that blue whales may use this region because of a steady food supply. She said she received pushback from industry, resource managers and even other scientists because the blue whale is listed as a “migrant” by the New Zealand Threat Classification System.

So in 2014 she led a 10-day research expedition looking for blue whales to see if they were foraging in the area and during that study she and her colleagues identified roughly 50 blue whales. That led to more questions, including whether the whales were part of a migratory population from, say, Australia, or were potentially a distinct New Zealand population.

Torres and her graduate student, Dawn Barlow, led longer surveys in the summers of 2016 and 2017, trying to determine the abundance, distribution patterns and population structure of the New Zealand blue whales. They used biopsy darts to determine the genetics of the whales, compared sightings with photo IDs of whales from other regions, and listened to the hydrophones deployed in the region for two years.

They were able to identify 151 individual New Zealand blue whales between 2004 and 2017 by examining various photographic evidence and then used that and other data to estimate their overall abundance.

“There is no doubt that New Zealand blue whales are genetically distinct, but we’re still not certain about how many of them there are”, Barlow said. “We have generated a minimum abundance estimate of 718, and we also were able to document eight individuals that we re-sighted in multiple years in New Zealand waters, including one whale seen in three of the four years with a different calf each time, and many others we saw at least once.”

Torres said the OSU researchers are “working closely with resource managers in New Zealand to help them understand what we do and don’t know about this New Zealand blue whale population so they can apply best management practices to minimize impacts from industry.”

“While we have gained a great amount of information about blue whales in New Zealand over the past few years, we continue to analyze our data and do more research to address other knowledge gaps.”

The blue whales found off New Zealand, Australia and Chile are not quite as large as Antarctic blue whales, which scientists believe to be the largest animals to have ever lived on Earth. Antarctic blues, when they reach adulthood, can range from 28 to 30 meters in length (nearly 100 feet). The other blue whales, though slightly smaller, are still formidable at about 22 meters in length (or 72 feet).

The Oregon State researchers will return to New Zealand in July and meet with government and political leaders, as well as industry representatives. They also are presenting their data to the International Whaling Commission.


New Zealand conservation news

This 2012 video is called INCREDIBLE NEW ZEALAND WILDLIFE.

By Ann Graeme in New Zealand:

8 Mar 2018

The Lazarus Effect: protect one species, resurrect a whole forest

Pest control is saving more than just the Kiwi: species that haven’t been seen for years are reappearing in New Zealand’s forests. Ann Graeme shares inspiring stories of native birds, plants and insects that have returned after community conservation for a different species – “The Lazarus Effect”.

A version of this article first appeared in Forest & Bird magazine. To find out more about conservation in New Zealand, see here.

It rained in the night. My pack is heavy with rat bait, and I am following East 5, a bait line marked with pink ribbon, through the forest. Up, down, up the bank. It’s steep and slippery, and I pull myself higher, clutching the tree trunks. There’s the bait station. I open it, pull out the wire, slip on the baits, close the lid, and look about for the next station. It’s far below, its pink ribbon fluttering.

I’m tired and wet and muddy, and I can’t help thinking, “Is it worth it? Am I doing any good?” Then, as I put my hand on a fallen log to heave myself over, I see an insect. Not just any old insect, but an amazing and bizarre insect – a Giraffe Weevil Lasiorhynchus barbicornis. It looks at me with its beady eyes and waves the little antennae at the tip of its ridiculously long snout. Those antennae show it is a male, because female Giraffe Weevils sensibly have their antennae further along the snout, out of the way for digging.

Giraffe Weevils are not rare, but they do make crunchy mouthfuls for a rat. This weevil, brazenly clambering over a rotten log, confirms my hope that our rat control is effective and that the bait I am carrying is giving the native plants and animals a better chance of survival.

Yes, it is worth it, this work, month after month, by hundreds of local volunteers in dozens of forest restoration projects. As the pests are driven back, seeds sprout, shoots appear, and birds, lizards, and invertebrates can emerge from the shadows. Here are some of their stories.

More than 25 years ago landowners on the Russell peninsula, in Northland, engaged Laurence Gordon to protect Kiwi living on their properties. Kiwi flourished under his pest-control regime and, since the turn of the century, his work has been enhanced and extended by the Russell Kiwi Protection Trust, an initiative of Russell Landcare Trust. Now there are more than 500 Kiwi on the peninsula, and birds can be heard calling in the township of Russell.

And it wasn’t only the Kiwi who benefited from pest control. To the residents’ delight, they began to see New Zealand Tomtits Petroica macrocephala, which hadn’t been seen for decades. The little birds can rear their chicks more safely now there are few rats, stoats, and possums to raid their nests.

In 1995, North Island Weka Gallirallus australis greyi (classed as Vulnerable to extinction) were released on the peninsula. They were captive-bred birds reared by Forest & Bird members. They too have prospered and now number several thousand. And these are only the tip of the iceberg. No doubt a host of other unseen and unnoticed native animals are flourishing thanks to the pest control intended to help the Kiwi.

Like Tomtits, the Riflemen Acanthisitta chloris are vulnerable to nest-raiding predators. Riflemen had not been recorded in the Kaimai Range, west of Tauranga, but seven years after pest control began in nearby Aongatete, they turned up in the forest there! A few birds must have been surviving all along, and now pest control has allowed them to breed and multiply.

Riflemen too are being seen again in the Talbot forest of South Canterbury, and so are Tūī Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae. That is thanks to the volunteer efforts of the Talbot Forest Working Group. In Wellington, residents may be lucky enough to enjoy a visiting Kākā Nestor meridionalis (Endangered), a bird unseen in the city in living memory. They are flying from Zealandia, that pest-free jewel in suburban Karori.

Not every pest-control and restoration project will see the resurrection of a charismatic species, but every project will enjoy more subtle signs, such as the Clematis flowers that, thanks to volunteer possum control, now delight people driving from Mangawhai to Langs Beach.

Every pest we kill means fewer leaves or eggs or beetles are eaten and more flowers, Fantails, and insects thrive. And as well as these visible signs, the consequences of a healthy forest mean less erosion, clean water in the streams, and a greater store of carbon, the ultimate gift in a warming world.

Ann Graeme is a volunteer at the Aongatete Forest Project, south of Katikati, in the Western Bay of Plenty.

New Zealand governments’ lies on Iraq war

This video from England is called Historical anti-[Iraq] war protest in London: 15 February 2003.

By Sam Price in New Zealand:

New Zealand governments lied about “non-combat” role in Iraq

2 March 2018

Reports published by Fairfax Media reveal that New Zealand governments, National and Labour party alike, have lied about activities of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) in Iraq.

Around 100 New Zealand troops have been stationed in Iraq since May 2015 as part of a joint operation with Australia called Task Group Taji. The current Labour-led government has maintained that it is a strictly non-combat operation to train Iraqi soldiers. However, separate reports by human rights researcher Harmeet Sooden and investigative journalist Jon Stephenson have revealed that NZ soldiers are actively participating in the ongoing US-led war.

After the 2003–2011 US invasion and occupation of Iraq, which killed over a million people, the Obama administration sent US troops back to the country in July 2014, ostensibly to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as “Daesh”.

In reality, Washington’s aim was to shore up its position in the Middle East. It has supported a war for regime change in Syria, a Russian ally, in an alliance with Islamist militias and Kurdish forces. Over 85,000 Iraqi and 100,000 Syrian civilians have been killed in the past seven years, and an estimated 11 million Syrians have been displaced, producing the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Sooden’s report, based on government answers to his official information requests, noted that on July 19, 2017, the government expanded the NZDF’s mandate to “provide advise-and-assist support to the Iraqi Army’s North Baghdad Operations Command”. This includes gathering intelligence and planning military actions, as well as “equipping, resupplying and refitting the Iraqi security forces for combat operations”.

Task Group Taji has been gathering biometric data for an intelligence program in which the NZ Army has been involved since at least 2009. Data from this program is available to US intelligence agencies.

Sooden also found that at some point between June 2016 and May 2017 the government authorised expanding the delivery of training to Qayyarah West Airfield without public acknowledgement.

Stephenson, who has reported extensively on New Zealand’s military deployments, revealed that since at least early 2016 NZDF personnel have been secretly stationed at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center (CAOC) in Qatar. CAOC, run by the US Air Force Central Command, involves 20 countries and coordinates air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Former Pentagon official Paul Buchanan admitted that successive NZ governments’ description of New Zealand troops abroad as “non-combat” was a lie. He said: “In reality, the intelligence and planning role is as central to the kill chain as that of the pilots”.

In a comment published by Fairfax on February 12, Buchanan said “advise and assist … was envisioned from the very beginning of the Defence Force involvement in the anti-Daesh coalition”. He asserted that the government’s secrecy was necessary to protect New Zealand interests from terrorist retaliation, but also to avoid public backlash and “deny participation in potential war crimes”.

Last year, Stephenson co-authored Hit and Run, with Nicky Hager, which revealed that in 2010 NZ Special Air Service (NZSAS) commandos led an attack on two villages in Afghanistan, killing six people, including a three-year-old girl.

A documentary by Fairfax Media described the “bait and hook” tactic used by the NZSAS to terrorise villagers and provoke battles. It also revealed that the army’s so-called Provincial Reconstruction Team was secretly involved in offensive operations.

There is widespread anti-war sentiment in New Zealand, where thousands of people joined worldwide mass protests against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Every party in parliament, however, supports NZ’s involvement in Iraq.

The Labour Party and its coalition partners, New Zealand First and the Greens, voted against the former National government’s decision to send soldiers to Iraq in 2015. However, the Labour-led government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has not withdrawn the troops.

Former Labour leader Andrew Little feigned concern in 2015 that training would turn into combat operations. Earlier this month Little, now the minister responsible for the intelligence agencies, joined Defence Minister Ron Mark on a visit to Camp Taji, and to NZ troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Mark, a member of the right-wing populist NZ First, told the media that NZ troops were “highly valued” by the Iraqi government and the US-led coalition and that he hoped parliament would extend their deployment.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop recently visited New Zealand to encourage the Ardern government to extend the deployment, which is due to end in November. The government has yet to announce its decision.

Ardern defended the actions of NZDF forces in Iraq, telling Fairfax Media on February 12 the soldiers worked within their “mandate”. She admitted she was aware of the gathering of biometric intelligence data, saying this “became standard practice … some years ago for all coalition forces.”

The 1999–2003 Labour government led by Prime Minister Helen Clark sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001, and to Iraq in 2003, after initially opposing the US invasion. NZ First strongly supported the decisions.

The Greens routinely posture as anti-war, but supported troops being sent to Afghanistan, falsely claiming the deployment was “humanitarian”. The party has remained silent on the current government’s support for the Iraq war.

The Labour-NZ First-Green government … will play a critical role in bolstering military ties with the US, which is preparing for war against its nominated strategic rivals, Russia and China.

The government is pressing ahead with plans, drawn up by the National government, to spend billions of dollars to upgrade military planes and frigates. The Defence Force is continuing a recruitment campaign and there are growing calls from the media and think tanks for greater military spending.

In October, the anti-Asian xenophobic NZ First decided to form a coalition government with Labour, rather than the National Party, after US ambassador Scott Brown publicly criticised then-National Party Prime Minister Bill English for failing to fully endorse President Donald Trump’s threat to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea.

To align New Zealand with the drive to war, the government and much of the media are engaged in a witch-hunt against alleged Chinese “influence” in New Zealand politics. Ardern has ordered the Security Intelligence Service to investigate the accusations of Chinese “interference” made by NATO-funded academic Anne-Marie Brady, and echoed by NZ First.

Nigel, the lonely New Zealand gannet, dies

This video from New Zealand says about itself:

2 February 2018

Nigel the gannet dies alone after living years with concrete decoys.

Some animals are destined to spend the end of their lives alone. If that isn’t a cheery thought for a Friday, at least you haven’t fallen in love with an inanimate object. WATCH ‘NO MATES’ NIGEL HANG OUT WITH HIS CONCRETE PALS.

Nigel the lonely gannet dies as he lived, surrounded by concrete birds. New Zealand conservationists mourn loss of celebrated bird that was lured by replica gannets in the hope of establishing a breeding colony: here.

Antipodean Albatross problems

This 2016 video is called Antipodean Albatross – Antipodes Island New Zealand.

From BirdLife:

22 Dec 2017

Two males for every female: Antipodean Albatross in breeding crisis

Antipodean Albatrosses court for years, mate for life and work together to raise their young – but human activity is causing a sex ratio imbalance that is destroying their lifelong romance. This year, they have been uplisted to Endangered on the IUCN Red List due to worrying population declines.

By Jessica Law

The “live slow, die old” strategy has been working for the Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis for millennia. Breeding exclusively on a few New Zealand islands, this majestic bird mates for life, laying a single egg with each breeding attempt. Since it takes a whole year to hatch the egg and raise the chick, they are only able to reproduce once every two years. But they don’t even start thinking about breeding until they are at least seven years old – sometimes more like twenty – and even then, the process entails a long and drawn-out courtship involving song and dance routines, and spanning over several years.

It sounds like a Jane Austen novel, but investing a lot of time and energy in safely raising a few healthy young is a strategy that has paid off – until now. Recent surveys of Adams Island and the Antipodes Islands have shown a steep decrease in population size and the number of nests found. The Antipodes Islands, which house the largest population – nearly half of the world’s Antipodean Albatrosses – are showing the biggest decline. Here, numbers have fallen by a staggering 12% a year in the past 13 years. And the overall population is estimated to have more than halved in the decade between 2004 and 2014.

What could be the reason for this catastrophic decline? There are many likely causes. Warming oceans are decreasing the albatross’ food supply, meaning that they need to travel to new areas to find food. Antipodean Albatrosses are specialists in low-energy flying, riding updrafts created by the wind and waves and covering vast distances while rarely needing to flap their wings. However, their increasingly arduous journeys are putting them in the paths of fishing boats. And that’s where the problems begin.

An army of bachelors

Antipodean Albatrosses are mainly scavengers, plucking squid and fish from the surface of the waves or plunging into the water in shallow dives. So it’s no wonder that they are attracted to fishing boats and the discarded delicacies they provide. Unfortunately, many albatrosses end up being accidentally impaled on the baited hooks of longline fisheries. In fact, in 2006 a single fishing trip in New Zealand waters ensnared 58 Antipodean Albatrosses on longline hooks.

But the impact isn’t an equal one – twice as many females are being killed as males. This is because the females are the ones who have changed their foraging range. In previous years, they remained largely around New Zealand. But tracking data since 2011 shows they have started venturing both further north and much further east to the coast of South America. This means they now overlap with a far greater number of fisheries where they are at risk of being killed.

This is creating a serious imbalance in the sex ratio of the population. With two males for every female, far fewer breeding pairs are able to form, and an army of bachelors is left over. This significantly reduces the species’ potential to raise the next generation and build up their population again – instead, further declines are predicted. In fact, if the current rate of decline continues, in 20 years’ time there will be fewer than 500 pairs left.

One up, one down

More encouragingly, another albatross species has moved the opposite direction on the IUCN Red List this year. With its imposing silhouette and severe expression, the Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris is one of the most iconic seabirds in the Southern Hemisphere. And they seem to be on the increase. On the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), both aerial and land-based surveys have shown that their population has risen by 4% a year between 2005 and 2010, and Chilean populations are showing a similar improvement. And since these archipelagos hold some of the highest numbers of breeding individuals, we can be confident that the population as a whole is on the up.

In fact, there are now estimated to be 700,000 breeding pairs globally. As a result, this year the Black-browed Albatross was downlisted from Near Threatened to Least Concern – following on from an encouraging precedent set in 2013, when it was downlisted from Endangered to Near Threatened.

But the change isn’t simple – although the overall population is increasing, on the island of South Georgia (Georgias del Sur) it has actually been declining by an estimated 1.8% a year between 2005 and 2014. This is a separate population with a different foraging range, and their situation needs to be addressed. And Black-browed Albatrosses everywhere are plagued by similar bycatch issues to their Antipodean counterparts: it was found that just one Argentinian trawl fishery was killing an estimated 13,500 Black-browed Albatrosses every year, with far more globally. So there is still much work to be done on this species.

The Albatross Task Force

Bycatch is a problem for the whole albatross family. An estimated 100,000 albatrosses a year of multiple species are dying as accidental bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries. But help is at hand. The Albatross Task Force, set up in 2006 and led by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) for the BirdLife International Partnership, has spent more than a decade working alongside fishermen to introduce measures that will prevent seabirds from getting caught in this way.

They have braved storms, seasickness and extreme climates and spent over 5,000 days at sea to build relationships with those in the fishing industry. Because fishermen don’t want to catch seabirds. In fact, seabirds actively obstruct the fishing process. One seabird can eat up to ten pieces of bait, intended for fish, before they get hooked. So the Albatross Task Force are in a perfect place to work with the fishing community to find solutions that suit everybody – the key to long-lasting and sustainable conservation.

And their heroic work is paying off. After years of lobbying by BirdLife partner Aves Argentinas, this year the Argentinian fishing authorities announced the mandatory use of bird-scaring lines on all freezer trawlers from May 2018 onwards. Thanks to the Task Force’s advocacy in Namibia, 100% of trawl and demersal longline vessels now have bird-scaring lines, which have been constructed in collaboration with local women’s group Meme Itumbapo. In South Africa, there has been a 99% reduction in albatross deaths in the hake demersal trawl fishery following the introduction of similar measures.

Overall, nine out of the ten fisheries originally pinpointed as bycatch hotspots have now committed to adopting regulations to protect seabirds, and the Task Force’s work continues in earnest.

The start of something great

It’s not all plain sailing – in 2016, 39 albatrosses were killed in a commercial tuna fishing venture off the West Coast of New Zealand due to the skipper’s (illegal) failure to use bird scaring lines. And it’s not just bycatch that we need to worry about. This July, a survey by Auckland Museum and the University of Tasmania discovered that over a third of seabirds found dead on Australia and New Zealand’s beaches had eaten plastic.

Invasive species are also a big problem – back in the world of the Antipodean Albatross, Auckland Island pigs are thought to have been responsible for almost extirpating the bird from this island.

So there’s a long way to go: 15 out of the world’s 22 albatross species are still globally threatened. But the Albatross Task Force has shown us what it’s possible to achieve, and with enough support, in the coming years we can take these successes to a new level.

We hope that, some day, all the sad stories will once again be replaced with epic romances.

I was privileged to sail past Antipodes island and see the beautiful albatrosses there. One should hope there will be effective anti-bycatch measures.

The million-dollar mouse: navy heads to remote Antarctic islands to hunt out pest. New Zealand is sending sniffer dogs, rangers and a government minister to make sure mice have been eradicated from the Antipodes Islands: here.

Good kiwi news from New Zealand

This video says about itself:

Kiwis for Kiwi

12 November 2015

The kiwi bird is a huge icon of New Zealand. Unfortunately it is also threatened with extinction. I followed the Department of Conservation for their biggest kiwi release yet. FIFTY kiwi were released on the same day. Pretty memorable experience. I took my camera so you guys can enjoy it too!

From BirdLife:

5 Dec 2017

Stars of the Red List: two kiwi species are no longer Endangered

Not one, but two of New Zealand’s kiwi species are in recovery thanks to nearly 30 years of egg rearing, predator control, and community devotion.

By Kevin Hackwell, Chief Conservation Advisor – Forest & Bird

Whoever said dinosaurs are extinct has never seen a kiwi. As dusk approaches, you can hear their calls echoing from New Zealand’s native forest. As you venture in, you spot their large, three-pronged footprints imprinted in the earth. And there’s nothing to prepare you for the sight of this unique flightless bird. Eyewitnesses have said that the only real way to describe a kiwi is like a vestige from the Jurassic era: big and heavy, it moves in a completely unique way, swaying its hindquarters to power its thick, strong legs. It’s a surreal sight.

But unlike its dinosaurian ancestors, it doesn’t look like the kiwi needs to fear extinction any time soon. Thanks to nearly 30 years of dedication from government bodies, local conservation groups and the Maori community, two species of kiwi have become the stars of the 2017 Red List: Rowi Apteryx rowi and Northern Brown Kiwi A. mantelli have just been downlisted from Endangered to Vulnerable.

It’s a true underdog success story: the Rowi (also known as Okarito Kiwi) has increased from a mere 160 individuals in 1995 to 400-450 adults today. And in some areas the Northern Brown Kiwi’s populations are estimated to be growing by over 2% a year.

The reason for their decline was an age-old one: invasive species. In this case, stoats, ferrets and feral cats preying upon the eggs and chicks. And even the adult birds weren’t safe, with many Northern Brown Kiwis falling prey to wandering dogs – often the beloved pets of ever-spreading human populations at the top of New Zealand’s North Island.

Something needed to be done. And so, in 1991, the Department of Conservation joined forces with the Bank of New Zealand and Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) to create the National Kiwi Recovery Program. They knew that the best way to achieve something great is to break it into clearly-defined, manageable stages: these became the Kiwi Recovery Plans.

The first Kiwi Recovery Plan involved gathering information: how many kiwis were left, where were they living, and what comprised their biggest threat. Nest predation, especially by stoats, was found to be the main cause of decline. Following lobbying by Forest & Bird, five large kiwi sanctuaries were established in the wild, with a commitment of NZ$ 2 million a year for research into how best to manage the kiwi and control the impacts of predators.

But while they were busy researching methods of stoat control, faster action needed to be taken to increase juvenile survival. And so, Operation Nest Egg was born.

Kiwis lay the largest egg in relation to their body size of any bird species: up to a whopping 20% of the female’s body. Operation Nest Egg ensured that this huge amount of energy didn’t go to waste. The project removed kiwi eggs from the wild, hatched chicks in captivity and then raised them either in captivity or in a predator-free crèche. Once they reached a stoat-safe weight of around one kilogram, they were released back into the wild. And it worked – the technique was found to increase juvenile survival from a heartbreaking 5% to an encouraging 60%.

Using the knowledge and tools developed in the kiwi sanctuaries, the third Kiwi Recovery Plan focused upon rolling out pest control on a landscape scale. It achieved this through empowering communities to get involved in managing their own kiwi populations, which led to a proliferation of community-led projects throughout New Zealand. The emphasis was on managing the birds as part of a healthy, functioning ecosystem, where kiwi acted as an indicator of the health of the habitat as a whole. By helping the kiwi, the community would also benefit a suite of other native flora and fauna.

In some cases, the focus continued to be on Operation Nest Egg. Other groups created ‘kōhanga kiwi’ sites, where kiwi populations are built up in locations where predators are absent or scarce (for example islands, or behind predator-proof fences). Offspring are then translocated to create new populations on the mainland, or to supplement existing wild populations.

Since the publication of the third Recovery Plan, significant advances have been made in the understanding of how best to control introduced predators to protect kiwi, especially in the North Island. Work at the kiwi sanctuaries has improved the ability to protect kiwi in situ over large areas, including through the use of aerial toxins to control stoats.

A better understanding has also been developed of the limitations of ground-based pest control. When using either traps or toxin baits, a particularly important discovery was the need to occasionally introduce a phase of the other technique to target those stoats that had become either trap – or bait – ‘shy’.

The ability to reduce the threat of dogs has remained a significant challenge to kiwi recovery, especially for kiwi populations that are located in close proximity to humans. Whether they are pets, working dogs, hunting dogs or feral, they can all kill adult kiwi.

In Northland, it has been shown that the average lifespan of an adult brown kiwi is only 13–14 years, compared to the 30–40 years of all other brown kiwi populations. This is mainly due to predation by dogs. And as a long-lived species with low reproductive rates, the loss of adult kiwi from a population – cut off in its reproductive prime – far outweighs the impacts of predation on juveniles.

Where dogs are an issue, even a single dog can easily turn the tide for a local population and can quickly undo years of conservation work.

Despite the considerable successes of the third Recovery Plan, unmanaged populations on the mainland continue to decline by around 2% a year. This was recognised by the Government in 2015, with a commitment for extra funding to turn the 2% decline into a 2% gain per year across all five of New Zealand’s kiwi species.

The fourth Kiwi Recovery Plan (2017–2027) is now awaiting publication and will set the ambitious goal of building kiwi populations from 70,000 to 100,000 by 2030.

To achieve this target, the Plan proposes to roll out predator control over even larger areas, with greater cost-effectiveness than ever before. Landscape-scale predator control will be taken to a new level, particularly for species in the South Island, where kiwi populations are often dispersed across vast areas of rugged terrain, and only a small proportion of kiwi currently receive any form of management.

The Plan also proposes to expand kiwi management on the back of the government’s proposal to make all of New Zealand predator-free by 2050. Since New Zealand pioneered the technology in the early 1960s, invasive species eradication operations have grown at an exponential rate. Because of the significant growth of knowledge around pest control over the past decade – much of it coming out of kiwi recovery research – it is predicted that this exponential trend will continue.

The Predator-Free initiative has nationwide support and has been enthusiastically adopted by community conservation groups, local Maori communities, philanthropists and everyday New Zealanders.

In both scale and breadth, kiwi recovery is one of the most unique and successful conservation partnerships in New Zealand. The Kiwi Recovery Group has expanded from only three original members to include Maori, captive management practitioners, independent researchers and community representatives. It doesn’t just create the Recovery Plans: it also provides regular expert advice to the Department of Conservation and field conservationists on how to put them into action.

Work stretches from the top of Northland to Stewart Island (Rakiura) in the south, with active participation from hundreds of diverse stakeholders. And it benefits all five kiwi species, so when the next Red List is published, there is every chance that the threat status of other kiwi species will enjoy a positive upgrade.

This beloved and iconic bird has been the catalyst for advances in technology and habitat recovery that have benefited the whole of New Zealand’s ecology. It’s time for New Zealand’s honorary dinosaur to look towards the future.