New Zealand Subantarctic conservation


This video says about itself:

Sail south from New Zealand on board the Spirit of Enderby and experience the beauty of the Subantarctic Islands, a birding and wildlife paradise full of unexpected delights.

From Wildlife Extra:

Subantarctic marine reserves get Parliament’s approval

February 2014: Proposed legislation protecting three large marine reserves in the Subantarctic Islands is almost complete is about to become law, the New Zealand Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith announced. It is expected the new marine reserves will then take effect at a formal ceremony on Campbell Island on 2 March.

These three marine reserves expand the proportion of New Zealand’s territorial sea that is protected from 7.1 per cent to 9.5 per cent, and almost the target of 10 per cent, set the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

“This new law, when enacted, will create 435,000 hectares of new marine reserves surrounding the Antipodes, Bounty and Campbell Islands in New Zealand’s remote Subantarctic Ocean. The significance of these three new reserves is their huge size, near pristine state and remoteness. Their marine reserve status means there can be no fishing, no mining and no petroleum exploration within the protected areas,” Dr Smith said.

WWF-NZ welcomed the creation of these marine reserves as a positive step but warned that a comprehensive plan for marine protection in New Zealand waters is needed.

“Legislation to set up a comprehensive marine spatial plan for looking after our oceans should be a priority for this Government and whoever is in power for the next term,” said WWF-NZ Head of Campaigns Peter Hardstaff.

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Rare blue whales near New Zealand


This video is called BBC Planet Earth (Blue whale).

From the New Zealand Herald:

Giants of the sea: Blue whales spotted in NZ

11:51 AM Monday Feb 3, 2014

Rare blue whales have been spotted off the coast of the North Island by NIWA scientists.

The whales, the world’s largest animal, remain one of the planet’s most elusive creatures.

They were intensively hunted in the Southern Hemisphere during the whaling era, dramatically reducing their numbers.

The creatures were spotted by scientists on a research expedition in the South Taranaki Bight led by NIWA marine ecologist Dr Leigh Torres.

The group is aiming to collect data to increase understanding of the blue whale population in the region. The team has observed nearly 50 blue whales in the past week.

“It is very exciting to see these whales and start the process of collecting important data on this undescribed population and poorly understood foraging habitat,” Dr Torres said.

“In addition to finding the whales, we were able to detect their prey visually on the surface and at-depth using hydro-acoustics.”

Dr Torres last year published a scientific paper that discussed the possibility of a blue whale foraging ground in the Bight.

Her research showed the presence of blue whales in the area was greater than expected. An increase in reported sightings was also linked to a prominent upwelling system that generates large clouds of plankton – perfect for blue whales to feed on.

It was previously thought the whales were only travelling through New Zealand waters while migrating.

Blue whales need to eat vast amounts of plankton to support their energy demands. But there are just four confirmed blue whale foraging grounds in the Southern Hemisphere outside of Antarctic waters,” Dr Torres said.

Pygmy blue whales migrating from Perth to Indonesia: here.

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Dolphin fossil discovery in New Zealand


This video is called Friday Fossil Mystery – Ep.2 – Dolphin Petrosal.

From the University of Otago in New Zealand:

New dolphin fossil found in NZ

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

A newly recognised fossil dolphin from New Zealand, dubbed Papahu taitapu, is the first of its kind ever found and may be a close relation to the ancestors of modern dolphins and toothed whales, according to University of Otago researchers.

Papahu lived 19–22 million years ago, and is one of the few dolphins to be reported globally dating to the start of the Miocene epoch. Judging from the size of its skull, Papahu was about two metres long, roughly the size of a common dolphin.

Dr Gabriel Aguirre and Professor Ewan Fordyce, from the University’s Department of Geology describe and interpret Papahu in the latest issue of Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. This work was part of Dr Aguirre’s PhD research.

Dr Aguirre says that like most living dolphins, Papahu had many simple conical teeth, but its head was probably a bit wider, and not as high-domed. It lived at a time of global warmth, in shallow seas around Zealandia – or proto-New Zealand – along with ancient penguins and baleen whales.

The skull, one jaw, and a few other parts of Papahu taitapu were found in marine sedimentary rocks in the Cape Farewell region of northern South Island. The researchers used the Māori name ‘taitapu’ to honour this region, and ‘Papahu’ is a Māori name for dolphin. Only a single specimen has been found so far and the fossil is housed in the University’s Geology Museum.

“Our study of structures of the skull and earbone suggest that Papahu could make and use high frequency sound to navigate and detect prey in murky water. They probably also used sound to communicate with each other,” says Dr Aguirre.

Features of the Papahu skull can be used to analyse relationships with other dolphins and toothed whales. That work shows that the skull is distinct from all previously-reported fossils, which is why the dolphin can be formally named as a new form, he says.

“When we compared Papahu with both modern and fossil dolphins we found that it belongs in a diverse and structurally variable group of ancient dolphins that evolved and spread world-wide 19–35 million years ago. All of those ancient dolphins including Papahu and others, such as shark-toothed dolphins, are now extinct,” says Professor Fordyce.

“They have been replaced by the ‘modern’ dolphins and toothed whales, which diversified within the last 19 million years,” he says.

It is not clear, however, exactly why Papahu and other ancient dolphins went extinct, he added.

See also here.

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Tropical butterflies to botanical garden


This video says about itself:

Short mini film about the Otago museum tropical butterfly house, Dunedin, New Zealand.

The botanical garden of Leiden in the Netherlands has won a prize.

This makes it possible for them to bring tropical butterflies to their Victoria amazonica hothouse.

The butterflies will start flying there in the spring of 2014.

New Zealand South Island kokako still alive?


This video from New Zealand says about itself:

Kōkako at Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre

21 Nov 2012

This is some footage I took of Kahurangi, a hand-reared [North Island] kōkako living at the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre in New Zealand. I had the privilege of hanging out with her in her enclosure – she’s too tame and dependent on humans to fly free. It gave me an incredible opportunity to get close to a bird most New Zealanders will never even hear, let alone see.

Before Europeans arrived, kōkako were very common across New Zealand. Each main island had a distinct species. Thanks to predation by introduced mammals, the South Island kōkako is now extinct and the North Island kōkako survives in just a handful of forests. The evening after I met Kahurangi, I sat in my garden and thought how much richer New Zealand would be if it was kōkako, not blackbirds, heralding the dusk!

From Wildlife Extra:

The thought to be extinct kokako may be alive

Sightings accepted of bird native to New Zealand’s South Island

November 2013: A South Island bird that was thought to be extinct may actually still be alive, according to Forest & Bird, New Zealand’s largest independent conservation organisation, which is dedicated to monitoring rare and endangered birds.

The South Island kokako was declared extinct in 2007 but earlier this month the Ornithological Society decided to change the bird’s listing from ‘extinct’ to ‘data deficient’ on the New Zealand Threat Classification System. That decision can after the society accepted a sighting of the bird near Reefton, which was made in 2007. The last accepted sighting was made in 1967.

Ten further sightings of the South Island kokako between 1990 and 2008 were found to be ‘probable’ or ‘possible’.

Forest & Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said that, while it was uncertain as to whether the bird was alive, this was the best sign yet.

“New Zealand is thought to have lost over 50 bird species. If just one of those extinctions turns out not to have happened, it would be incredibly good news,” he said.

Hackwell maintained that if the South Island kokako was still alive it would “just be hanging on”. More pest control work in the South Islands was needed than ever before because of the reclassification, he said.

The North Island kokako, a different species, is still considered ‘endangered’.

South Island Kokako: The search for the Grey Ghost: here.

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Penguin photographer in New Zealand


This video (in English, after a short introduction in German) says about itself:

Tui De Roy – A Wild Spirit

9 Dec 2012

Internationally acclaimed New Zealand wildlife photographer talks about her life.

From the Otago Daily Times in New Zealand:

A dedicated follower of penguins

By Rebecca Fox on Wed, 25 Sep 2013

Tui De Roy has travelled to the ends of the Earth in search of the perfect wildlife photograph.

Whether photographing the rarely seen northern rockhopper penguin on a South Atlantic island or the emperor penguin in the Antarctic, the remoter the better, for Ms De Roy.

During the production of her latest book, Penguins Their World, Their Ways, co-authored with Mark Jones and Julie Cornthwaite, she made an exception, visiting Otago Peninsula to photograph the yellow-eyed penguin.

Ms De Roy (59) and her co-authors were in Dunedin this week to talk to the Dunedin Photographic Society.

The book was a sister to an earlier one on albatrosses and together marked the end of a 15-year project for the trio.

It was during the work for the latest book that she fell in love – with emperor penguins.

She travelled to the Antarctic with the Australian Antarctic programme and was able to spend three days photographing the penguins.

”It’s very much the end of the earth. I was very lucky.

”The space, the immensity, the soft light and they were such stately birds. It was very other-worldly.”

Her dream was to spend one year in [the] Antarctic photographing the penguins‘ life for another book.

Such an endeavour was not that outrageous for the woman who has been photographing wildlife in remote places for many decades – including the Galapagos Islands, where she used to live – and who has produced six books in the past eight years.

Another highlight was photographing the ”outrageous” looking northern rockhopper penguins, as their remote location meant they were not often seen by people.

In contrast, she also spent four weeks camping in the Falkland Islands among four different species of penguins.

Her work required much time and the ability to be able to immerse herself in the environment, she said.

With the book out, she planned to take some time out before planning her next project.

One of the most “disastrous breeding seasons” in recent years has hit endangered yellow-eyed penguin colonies along Otago’s coast: here.