New Zealand seabird news

This video from New Zealand says about itself:

6 May 2012

A kakapo named Crusty Bum has joined seven other kakapo on Little Barrier Island, north of Auckland.

From BirdLife:

27 Mar 2017

Lessons from Little Barrier Island

Alanna Matamaru-Smith, from our Cook Islands’ BirdLife Partner Te Ipukarea Society finds out more about seabird conservation during a recent visit to Little Barrier, an island off the northeastern coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

Alanna Matamaru-Smith, from our Cook Islands’ BirdLife Partner Te Ipukarea Society finds out more about seabird conservation during a recent visit to Little Barrier Island, off the northeastern coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

I’d never been to an island that was solely dedicated to being a nature reserve, but once I landed on Little Barrier Island, known as Hauturu in Māori language, it didn’t take long to realise I was in a Garden of Eden. Straight away I could see kākā and kākāriki flying overhead, tūī and bellbirds trying to out-sing each other, and kōkako bouncing across the ground nearby.

In the Cook Islands the closest we have to a nature reserve is Suwarrow, our national park, which is is 825km north-west of Rarotonga and home to millions of seabirds, thousands of huge coconut crabs, hundreds of sharks, and rare species of turtles. Suwarrow was predator-free until last year when one of the rangers noticed rats on one of the islets (Motu Tou).

A team is to return there this year to complete a rat eradication programme. Back on Hauturu, my first week involved helping Dan Burgin, of Wildlife Management International, and Leigh Joyce, DOC’s assistant ranger on Hauturu, conduct a population survey on the taiko/Black Petrel Procellaria parkinsoni.

I got a real hands-on experience holding these big seabirds and carefully learnt how to direct them in and out of their burrows. After handling the bird, with Dan banding it, we checked its nest for eggs or chicks. My second week involved a New Zealand Storm Petrel project with the Northern New Zealand Seabird Trust.

It was interesting to see how these birds were caught through the use of high beam lights, mesmerising the small petrel towards the ground. I was told back at home, old mamas on Mauke, one of our outer Cook Islands, used this technique too, but that was for chickens!

I had the job of placing captured birds into their new artificial burrows. Walking by myself in the dark forest to the burrows some 200m away, I saw what I thought was a kiwi but it turned out to be a kākāpō right there in the middle of the track. We both stood still for a good eight seconds before the kākāpō realised I had spotted it and headed off into the nearby bush.

After that, I had a lot more helpers join me on my walks to the burrows! Having arrived back home, I’m looking forward to utilising my skills learnt on Hauturu. For instance (funding dependent), I hope to work on a new project surveying and monitoring the herald petrel population on Rarotonga.

Little is known about this species, which is a major obstacle to developing a conservation plan and starting predator control work. There has been little recent activity in terms of seabird projects being conducted in the Cook Islands. So, with my new passion and drive for seabird conservation, I hope to jump-start a bit more excitement within this area, especially among our young people.


BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation partnership, with 120 partners worldwide. BirdLife’s Pacific Partnership includes national conservation groups from New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Palau, and Australia.

The Pacific has more threatened bird species per unit area of land, or per person, than anywhere else in the world. There are 34 critically endangered bird species in the region that are on the brink of extinction, with many more edging closer to being wiped out every year. Do you want to help? Head to our Support Us page.

New Zealand taxpayer-paid war propaganda for children

ANZAC heroes book cover

By Sam Price and Tom Peters in New Zealand:

ANZAC Heroes: Promoting war to children

24 March 2017

ANZAC Heroes, written by Maria Gill and illustrated by Marco Ivancic, is a glorification of war and nationalism aimed at children. Published by Scholastic in March 2016, and designed to be used in schools, it profiles 30 men and women who were in the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) during World War I and II, including soldiers, air force pilots, navy officers, and nurses.

Gill received $41,033 to write the book from the New Zealand government agency Creative NZ, which had a special $1.5 million fund for projects promoting the centenary of World War I. Wellington and Canberra have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on pro-war exhibitions, books and movies over the last three years, mainly aimed at young people, to encourage patriotism and respect for the military.

ANZAC Heroes received the 2016 Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, the national award for New Zealand children’s books. According to the awards’ web site, they are given to works that build “national identity and cultural heritage” and are funded by Creative NZ and the Wellington City Council. The judges described Gill’s book as “personal, engaging, inspiring and sad” and “incredibly well-researched.”

In fact, the book is not an objective work of history. As with other centenary-related productions, it is full of distortions and falsifications. While several of the people profiled were undoubtedly interesting and brave, their stories, filtered through the prism of nationalism, come across as lifeless and formulaic.

The primary purpose of the book is to glorify participation in imperialist wars. According to the introduction, the author aimed to “show what [the Anzacs] endured and how their incredible spirit saw them rise to the challenge.” It notes that every year their “sacrifice” is remembered on April 25, Anzac Day, in Australia and New Zealand. This holiday features nationalist parades and other patriotic ceremonies dedicated to the military.

Gill falsely characterises the entry of Australia and New Zealand into WWI as defensive. “When Britain went to war, they committed themselves to defending the Empire. Politicians worried that the war would spread to their shores and wanted to support the Empire’s effort to prevent that from happening,” she states.

In reality, both countries are minor imperialist powers that entered the war to expand their colonial possessions. Soon after war was declared in 1914, Australia invaded German Papua New Guinea and New Zealand troops seized German Samoa. These territories, along with Nauru, were brutally exploited by Australian and New Zealand capitalists for decades. The Anzacs took part in World War II not to fight for “democracy” but for predatory colonial interests.

Gill gives little sense of the immense scale of the destruction in both World Wars. The fact that tens of millions of people were slaughtered is not even mentioned, only the large death tolls for Australian and New Zealand troops: in WWI they were 60,000 and 18,000 respectively; in WWII, 27,073 and 11,928.

The book’s “heroes” are generally described as excited and eager to go to war. For instance: “At 17 years old, Cyril [Bassett] couldn’t wait to join the Territorial Force;” “Like many teenagers of that era, Robert [Little] dreamed of being a pilot;” “William Sanders always wanted a seafaring life after growing up hearing tales of his grandfather Captain Wilson’s sailing adventures;” “Edward (‘Weary’) Dunlop wanted to be like the heroes in the books and comics he read” … and so on.

There was in 1914–1915 an initial period of “war fever” in which thousands of Australians and New Zealanders rushed to enlist to fight. Responsibility for the lack of organised opposition rests primarily with the trade union and Labour Party leaders in both countries, which, like their counterparts in Europe, enthusiastically supported the war and joined with the bourgeoisie in whipping up patriotism.

Following the reports of thousands of deaths, particularly at the battle of Gallipoli in 1915, enlistments began to fall sharply and anti-war sentiment spread rapidly throughout the working class. The Australian Labor government of Billy Hughes attempted to introduce conscription, but was defeated in two referenda. New Zealand’s conservative government led by William Massey imposed conscription without a referendum in 1916. In New Zealand the Labour Party was established in 1916 to contain the anti-war opposition in the working class.

There is no reference to this mass opposition in Gill’s book. Nor is there any profile of anyone who was conscripted or otherwise forced to go and fight.

Gill recounts the military exploits of each soldier, with particular emphasis on the number of “enemies” killed and the recognition and medals received. A typical passage describes how Australian soldier Albert Jacka “killed many Germans” in WWI and earned a Victoria Cross after he leapt into an Ottoman trench, “shot five and bayoneted two,” afterwards telling his commanding officer: “Well, I managed to get the beggars, sir!”

Australian pilot Hughie Edwards is praised for earning the Victoria Cross in July, 1941, after “blowing up two factories and a warehouse.” Edwards took part in the bombing of Berlin in 1943, which killed thousands of civilians.

Victims of a bombing raid in Berlin laid out for identification

The book notes that several Anzacs suffered disfiguring wounds and psychological disorders. There are also descriptions of the horrific conditions endured by prisoners of war during WWII. Australian Arthur Blackburn is said to have “fought for the rights of POWs, striving to get them better living conditions, and suffered beatings for it.” A thousand men, under the command of prisoner Edward Dunlop, were forced to work 18-hour days in a Japanese prison camp while suffering from diseases like malaria and cholera.

Gill shows no sympathy for German, Ottoman or Japanese soldiers, who are dehumanised as “the enemy” throughout the book. Nor is there any acknowledgement of war crimes committed by the British Empire, the US or their allies. In Cowra, Australia in 1944, 231 Japanese POWs were slaughtered following a breakout, while in New Zealand in 1943, 48 Japanese prisoners were massacred by machine-gun during a riot. These atrocities are not widely known, particularly among younger people.

Several profiles of women and indigenous soldiers have been included to depict WWI and WWII as central to the development of a “progressive” and egalitarian national identity.

Gill writes that Australian ambulance driver Olive King “craved adventure” and when she initially volunteered “they told her war was no place for women, but Olive didn’t let that stop her.” The profile for New Zealand doctor Jessie Scott attempts to draw a direct line between New Zealand women winning the right to vote in 1893 and Scott’s decision to become a doctor and join a military hospital in Serbia.

Working class women, however, played a major role in the anti-war movement in both countries. In Melbourne on October 21, 1916, an anti-conscription demonstration led by around 4,000 women attracted a crowd of 80,000 people. In the New Zealand city of Christchurch in 1918, a group of 2,000 women started what was reported as a riot to prevent their men being conscripted.

The statement in ANZAC Heroes that “Maori volunteered to join [WWI] as soon as the war was declared” is a gross distortion. In fact, Maori were among the bitterest opponents of war. A Native Contingent Committee was formed to co-ordinate the recruitment of Maori and included Maori parliamentarians such as Apirana Ngata. Yet only a third of the second and third drafts were actually Maori, with Pacific Islanders enlisted to meet the minimum quota.

Objectors were brutally repressed. In 1916, two were killed by police during the attempted arrest of Rua Kenana, a religious leader who discouraged Maori from recruitment. Hundreds were imprisoned and sentenced to two years of hard labour for resisting conscription.

Gill’s assertions that “Aboriginal men were keen to enlist” and “were treated equally” in the Australian army are also misleading. Laws banning Aboriginals from the armed forces were relaxed to allow enlistment by those with one parent of European descent in 1917, as a desperate measure to increase recruitment, especially after conscription was defeated in two referenda in 1916 and 1917.

Although they were paid the same as other troops, Aboriginal soldiers were kept in the lowest ranks. After the war, they were officially shunned, refused returned soldiers’ land grants and often denied war pensions and back pay. Indigenous people were among the most brutally repressed sections of Australian society, denied basic rights such as citizenship, the right to vote, to buy land or marry non-indigenous partners.

The book contains only one brief mention of opposition to war, in the profile of Australian Hugo Throssell. After recounting Throssell’s experiences in battle during WWI, Gill writes: “Over the next ten years and through the Great Depression, Hugo had numerous jobs and became an anti-war socialist. His wounds healed but his mental health grew worse.” With “mounting debts,” Throssell committed suicide in 1933.

This wording falsely implies that Throssell became a socialist during the Depression of the 1930s and that his decision was bound up with deteriorating mental health.
Hugo Throssell

Speaking to a gathering of 1,500 people in Northam, Western Australia, on July 19, 1919, Throssell said: “The war has made me a Socialist. It has made me think and inquire what are the causes of wars. And my thinking and reading have led me to the conclusion that we shall never be free of wars under a system of production for profit, with its consequent over-production, periodic crimes, unemployment and the struggle for markets….

“[I]f we want to do the things which will make for a permanent peace, we must do away with the system of production for profit, and reorganise our life in common on the lines of production for use and for the well-being of the community as a whole.”

In 1919 Throssell married the socialist writer Katherine Prichard, a founding member of the Communist Party of Australia in 1920. Both were inspired by the Russian Revolution of October, 1917, an earth-shaking event that took Russia out of the war and pointed the way forward for workers in every country. The threat of revolution throughout Europe forced the imperialist powers to agree to an armistice.

The fact that ANZAC Heroes has received such wide acclaim and won a national prize must be taken as a warning. As in the lead-up to World War I, xenophobia, militarism and extreme nationalism are being cultivated in every country. The world stands on the brink of a catastrophic war involving nuclear powers, as the US escalates its threats against Russia and China. New Zealand and Australia, both allies of the US, would inevitably be dragged into such a war.

Gill’s book is part of the strenuous efforts being made by governments, with the help of well-paid academics and hack writers, to overcome the deeply ingrained anti-war sentiment among young people.

The author also recommends:

The role of Australian schools in World War I
[25 April 2015]

New Zealand: WWI Home Front exhibition buries mass opposition to war
[22 August 2016]

Government-produced book describes WWI as “successful and profitable”
[24 April 2014]

New Zealand pilot whales stranding

This video says about itself:

400+ Pilot whales stranded! Farewell Spit New Zealand

10 February 2017

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to help the remaining living whales. Of course I brought my camera gear to make a movie. It was an extremely sad experience.

As 200 More Whales Are Stranded In New Zealand, Heroics Turn To Heartbreak. February 11, 201710:00 AM ET: here.

Refloated whales beach themselves again as volunteers hold vigil at Farewell Spit. 5:00 AM Sunday Feb 12, 2017: here.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Cetacean tragedy

Saturday 11th February 2017

Fighting today to save the whales, PETER FROST reports on the overnight news from New Zealand where yesterday more than 400 pilot whales came ashore in a mysterious mass stranding

THIS morning local people, vets, conservation volunteers and whale enthusiasts are fighting to save the lives of at least a hundred pilot whales stranded on the ironically named Farewell Spit at the most northern point of New Zealand’s South Island.

More than 400 whales beached themselves here yesterday and three quarters have already died on the beach in what authorities are describing as one of the worst whale beachings they have ever seen. The area seems to confuse whales and has been the site of many previous mass strandings.

New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC) community ranger Kath Inwood told us that about 300 volunteers had joined conservation workers on the beach today. She said they had refloated the whales at high tide and had formed a human chain to try to prevent them from swimming back ashore.

She said that yesterday volunteers had tried to keep the surviving whales damp and cool by placing blankets over them and dousing them with buckets of water as they waited for the tide to rise. The high tide allowed volunteers one last chance to help the whales before darkness put an end to yesterday’s rescue efforts.

Dawn today saw the volunteers back in action. Ms Inwood said whale strandings occur most years at Farewell Spit, but the scale of this stranding had come as a shock.

Andrew Lamason, the DoC’s regional manager, said it was one of the largest mass beachings recorded in New Zealand.

He said the surviving whales are “being kept cool, calm and comfortable” by volunteers on the beach.

Some of the refloated whales tried to swim back to shore, and the human chain was trying to herd them out to deeper waters, said volunteer Ana Wiles. “We managed to float quite a few whales off and there were an awful lot of dead ones in the shallows so it was really, really sad.”

“One of the nicest things was we managed to float off a couple [of whales] and they had babies and the babies were following,” Ms Wiles added.

New Zealand marine mammal charity Project Jonah which is leading efforts to save the whales told us a total of 416 whales had stranded and most were dead when they were discovered.

Scientists do not know what exactly causes whales to beach themselves.

But it sometimes happens because the whales are old and sick, injured, or make navigational errors particularly along gentle sloping beaches.

Sometimes when one whale is beached, it will send out a distress signal attracting other members of its pod, who then also get stranded by a receding tide.

One theory of the cause of the latest beaching is that the whales’ echo-location systems have been disrupted by joint US and New Zealand naval exercises involving experimental seismic equipment. Authorities have been quick to deny any connection with the mass stranding.

Professor Liz Slooton, of the University of Otago’s department of zoology, told the New Zealand Herald there was a wide range of causes for whale strandings. She said: “Whales may beach themselves because they were sick, dying, giving birth or disoriented.

“While natural causes such as earthquakes and storms could be a factor, human causes, including noise, may lead to a whale beaching itself.”

Slooton added that it was remotely possible but unlikely seismic testing had caused the mass stranding.

Farewell Spit has been described as a whale trap. It has a long protruding coastline and gently sloping beaches that seem to make it difficult for whales to navigate away from once they get close.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of whale strandings in the world, and this weekend’s event is the nation’s third-biggest ever recorded. The largest was in 1918, when over a thousand pilot whales came ashore on the Chatham Islands.

Many of these incidents happen at Farewell Spit. Experts say its shallow waters seems to confuse whales and hinder their ability to navigate.

In February 2015 about 200 whales beached themselves here, of which at least half died.

The Pilot Whale

PILOT whales fall into two species, the long-finned and the short-finned. The two are not readily distinguishable at sea.
Analysis of the skulls at autopsy is the best way to accurately distinguish between the species.

Size and weight depend on the species. Long-finned pilot whales are generally larger than short-finned pilot whales.

Adults can reach a body length of approximately 21 feet, with males being three feet longer than females.

Their body mass reaches up to 1,300kg in females and up to 2,300kg in males.

Female pilot whales are one of the few mammals besides humans who have a menopause.

Pilot whale mass stranding in New Zealand

This video says about itself:

Rescuers and volunteers were racing to save hundreds of pilot whales in New Zealand’s picturesque Golden Bay on Friday (February 10), after one of the country’s largest recorded mass whale strandings.

Up to 300 whales have died and volunteers are trying to send more than fifty more back out to sea, while trying to keep them as comfortable as possible, local media reported.

Many volunteers have come from around the area to help the stranded whales in whatever way they can.

“It’s amazing, I mean there are people from all over the world, anyone who … has heard about this has just come over. We brought three hitchhikers who just said they wanted to come here and do whatever they could,” said one volunteer.

“Yeah, the water is cold but it’s fine, it’s good to be here and help,” added another.

A conservation department worker noticed the whales washed ashore on Thursday (February 9) evening, but the government agency decided against a night rescue effort for fear volunteers would be injured by the whales in the darkness.

“Yeah, this is third largest mass stranding that we have recorded in our history and so it’s a very large one, logistically it’s a massive undertaking. The whales started stranding last night at around about 10 o’clock last night, we were notified of that and then this morning when they went out and checked on them most of the whales were already dead,” said Auckland University Marine Biologist, Rochelle Constantine.

Local media reported on Friday that volunteers had managed to refloat some of the whales during high tide, but most were quickly restranded as the tide ebbed.

It is New Zealand’s largest known whale stranding since 1985 when 450 were stranded in Auckland.

Whales often get stuck at Golden Bay, a remote but popular holiday area at the top of New Zealand’s south island. The bay’s shallow waters make it difficult for whales to return to deeper water, according to marine life rescue organization Jonah Watch.

Donald Trump, Australia and New Zealand

This TV video from the USA says about itself:

Alec Baldwin mocks Trump and his Australia phone call on tonight’s episode

On tonight’s episode of Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin returned to portray President Donald J. Trump in a blistering cold open, skewering all the top stories that plagued the administration this week.

Including Trump’s advisor Stephen Bannon as the Grim Reaper.

By James Cogan in Australia:

Pro-Trump Australian senator splits from Coalition government

7 February 2017

After months of speculation, right-wing and pro-Trump Senator Cory Bernardi formally split from the governing Liberal Party today and announced his intention to form a new party, the Australian Conservatives. At this stage, no member of the parliament’s lower house, from either the Liberal Party or its coalition partner, the National Party, has joined him. The Coalition and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, therefore, still cling to power with a fragile one-seat majority.

Bernardi, 47, has represented the socially conservative Christian right of the Liberal Party since he first entered parliament in 2007. The main issues with which he has associated himself are climate change skepticism, draconian immigration policies, anti-Muslim xenophobia, anti-abortion campaigns, opposition to same sex marriage and calls for the repudiation of anti-discrimination legislation. He was a supporter of former prime minister Tony Abbott, who won the 2013 election against the Labor Party, and an opponent of Turnbull, who became prime minister through an inner-party coup against Abbott in September 2015.

A senator from the state of South Australia, Bernardi was seconded to Australia’s United Nations delegation last year, spending three months in the US during the final stages of the presidential election campaign. He paid considerable attention to Donald Trump’s campaign, particularly the latter’s populist

How many times do I have to repeat that ‘populist’ is the wrong word for politicians like Trump?

appeals to immense political alienation and discontent among some of the most desperate and impoverished sections of the American population and his channeling of such sentiments behind America First nationalism, anti-immigrant xenophobia and right-wing economic populism.

Bernardi returned home vowing to develop a Trump-style movement in Australia. On November 23, he wrote: “[P]olitics in Australia needs to change. My time in the USA has made me realise I have to be a part of that change, perhaps even in some way a catalyst for it.”

Bernardi is acutely conscious of the instability that surrounds the Turnbull government. He has split just days after the now notorious phone call between Turnbull and Trump, when they clashed over Turnbull’s insistence that the new US administration honour a sordid refugee deal that had been earlier made with the Obama administration. In recent days, Turnbull has denied US reports that he agreed to certain quid pro quos with Trump to ensure the deal remained. The alleged “reciprocal” agreements ranged from sending more troops to Iraq to sending Australian warships into Chinese-claimed waters in the South China Sea.

Points of difference had already flared after Trump repudiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership following his January 20 inauguration. Turnbull briefly suggested that the trade pact could continue without US involvement and raised, in meetings with Japanese prime minister Abe, the prospect of including China in a revised TPP—an action that would certainly have been viewed with hostility in Washington.

There is no question that the rifts between Turnbull and Trump have heightened tensions within Turnbull’s government. In June 2010, under conditions of a rift between then prime minister Kevin Rudd and the Obama administration, pro-US factions within the Labor Party orchestrated an inner party coup to oust Rudd and install Julia Gillard.

According to Fairfax media, Bernardi reportedly told Turnbull this morning that a leadership challenge was being plotted against him and that “I want no part of it.”

Given the extent of the factional divisions both within and between the Liberal and National parties, the outcome of any leadership spill would be highly unpredictable and could result in a split of some sorts and the fall of the Coalition government.

Bernardi’s statements today serve to underscore his major concern: to prepare for the collapse of the Coalition and Labor Party-dominated two party system that has prevailed in Australia since World War II.

In his resignation statement to the Senate, he declared: “[T]he body politic is failing the people of Australia and it’s clear we need to find a better way. The level of public disenchantment with the major parties, lack of confidence in our political process and concern about the direction of our nation is very strong. This is a direct product of the political class being out of touch with the hopes and aspirations of the Australian people.”

So-called third parties are now attracting an unprecedented 30 percent of the national vote. While Labor’s former working class base has abandoned the party in droves, right-wing populist formations such as Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Nick Xenophon’s party and Jacqui Lambie’s party have cut deeply into the traditional voter base of both Liberal and National.

Bernardi has pointed to the fact that more than one million conservative voters have shifted from the Coalition to other right-wing formations. Comments he made last year, however, revealed that he is even more concerned over the prospect of mass anger and alienation taking the form of a left-wing, anti-capitalist movement within the working class and among young people. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald last December, Bernardi noted that if the Democrats had stood Bernie Sanders, rather than Hillary Clinton, Sanders would have beaten Trump in the election because his anti-capitalist rhetoric appealed to broad layers of the population. The South Australian senator recalled being shown “research that found 50 percent of young Americans believe socialism or communism is a preferable system to capitalism.”

In the period ahead, the danger of war with China will soar as a result of the Trump administration’s agenda, while the deepening economic crisis will intensify pressures on the government to slash taxes and cut public spending.

Bernardi’s objective is to divert the rapidly deepening social disaffection into anti-immigrant demagogy and nationalism, combined with calls for corporate tax cuts, the winding back of social welfare and the slashing of government regulations on business.

According to Bernardi, 60,000 people have indicated “interest” on his “Australian Conservatives” web site. He has also developed relations with significant corporate figures, and is closely associated with Western Australian multi-billionaire Gina Rinehart, who has amassed a staggering fortune on the back of iron ore exports to China. Rinehart has heaped praise on Donald Trump, and called for Australian governments to replicate his pledges of massive corporate tax cuts and of winding back corporate regulation. According to several reports, Bernardi and Rinehart together met with members of Trump’s transition team in December.

Discussions are expected to take place, at some level, during the next several weeks between Bernardi and his backers, and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

By Tom Peters in New Zealand:

New Zealand government refuses to condemn Trump’s anti-immigrant bans

7 February 2017

New Zealand prime minister Bill English has repeatedly refused to condemn US President Trump’s ban on people from seven majority-Muslim countries—Syria, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Sudan—entering the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of people have protested against the ban in the US and throughout the world, including thousands in New Zealand.

English told Radio NZ that in his first telephone conversation with Trump on Monday he told the president “we don’t agree with the policy, it’s not something we’d put in place.” He described Trump as “warm, civil and very thoughtful”—in an apparent contrast with Trump’s browbeating of Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

While saying he “disagrees” with Trump’s anti-immigrant measures, English has pointedly refused to call the policy “racist.” Asked by a TVNZ newsreader on January 31 if he would denounce Trump’s actions as “horrifying [and] anti-Islamic,” English replied flatly: “In the end [the US] make decisions about their policy.”

Saving kākāpō parrots in New Zealand

This video says about itself:

Clumsy Kakapo: The flightless parrot – Natural World: Nature’s Misfits preview – BBC Two

29 April 2014

Tree climbing is tricky for the kakapo, the world’s heaviest and only flightless parrot.

From BirdLife:

The guardians of the Kākāpō Kingdom

By Kimberley Collins, 12 Dec 2016

Kimberley Collins drops in to Anchor Island, Fiordland, during this year’s busy kākāpō breeding season.

Being a kākāpō ranger is a bit like looking after a celebrity’s child. They’re always in the spotlight and need the utmost care and attention to thrive. This was something I discovered when I visited Anchor Island, in Dusky Sound, earlier this year. We arrived to find rangers from the Kākāpō Recovery Programme had five hand-reared chicks in a holding pen, ready to be released into the wild.

We watched as one of the rangers went into the pen, grunting quietly to lure out the chicks (in their own language), the bush suddenly came alive with movement. Two chicks barrelled out of the trees and waited expectantly at her shoe, making deep grunting noises to catch her attention. She bent down to hand them kūmara (sweet potato), and they started snapping at it blindly, occasionally latching on to her fingers before grabbing a piece and dashing off to feast.

The work carried out by the rangers changes a bit throughout the year, depending on what the birds are doing. This year, they had a breeding season thanks to a major masting event that saw the island flushed with rimu fruit.

Life on the island has been busy. The breeding season is kicked off when male kākāpō create a lek – a system of tracks leading to a shallow bowl. This is where they perform every night for about eight hours. They jostle for a high point that will project their deep, sonic booming call across the valleys, putting enormous effort into performing – for three to four months straight.

When the females are ready to breed, they make their way up the hill and choose who they will mate with. The kākāpō rangers keep an eye on where the males make their lek and watch to see who comes up the hill to mate.

Then they follow the female back to her home range, where she will find a hollow log to lay anywhere from two to three eggs after about 10 days. “With any luck, if we’ve done a good job of monitoring, we will find her on a nest with a full clutch of eggs,” explained Theo Thompson, one of the permanent kākāpō rangers on the island.

Female kākāpō, especially first-time mothers, are known for letting their eggs roll around in the nest, and sometimes they bump together and crack. So the rangers remove the eggs straight away, replacing them with plastic eggs that the female continues to incubate.

The real eggs are kept in an incubator where they can be separated from one another and kept safe. They’re monitored closely and checked for temperature and weight. “They also have to be turned throughout the day so the embryo inside the egg doesn’t get twisted or stuck in a particular position,” explained Theo.

Once they reach the point where they look as though they will hatch, the real eggs are moved back into the nest of a kākāpō mum. The rangers found that, if you simply put a hatched chick in the nest, it can be quite a shock, so they try to introduce a nearly ready to hatch egg so the mother can go through the motions of having it hatch and be ready to care for the chick.

But, sometimes, that doesn’t work out to plan, and a chick will hatch without any warning. In this case, rangers still move the chicks to a nest, but the mothers need time to adjust. “The experienced mums take it all in their stride and start feeding the chick quickly, but this year on Anchor we had no experienced mums so when we put a chick in the nest the mother’s expression was very distinct – imagine a kākāpō’s eyes widen in shock!” Theo said.

Unfortunately the team has had to deal with a few tragedies on the island this year. Being Fiordland, the island can get hit by massive weather bombs. Theo explained: “We didn’t think there was any risk of flooding, but one night there was a flash flood that took out two nests and killed three chicks. It was devastating because you spend a lot of time teaching these mothers how to look after their chicks, but then their nest gets destroyed and it’s all over for them for the rest of the breeding season.”

Nevertheless 2016 has been the best kākāpō breeding season since the recovery programme started 25 years ago. Out of the 47 eggs that were hatched on Anchor Island and Whenua Hou, 32 birds have fledged – increasing the kākāpō population by about 25 percent.

Despite the ups and downs of being a kākāpō ranger, getting such excellent results makes the heartbreak and hard work worth it.

The Kākāpō Recovery Programme

In 1990, Forest & Bird was a founder partner of the Kākāpō Recovery Programme when it was established, alongside the Department of Conservation and Rio Tinto. The programme is a world-class conservation effort that has brought the kākāpō back from the brink of extinction – from a low of just 50 birds two decades ago to 154 this year.

*A version of this story first appeared in Forest & Bird magazine. You can find out more about Forest & Bird, our New Zealand Birdlife Partner, at