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 www.forestandbird.org.nz.

New Zealand whales back after earthquake


This video says about itself:

10 August 2016

Kaikoura is the Whale Watching capital of New Zealand, every Whale Watch tour is a unique experience and the sightings vary. Giant Sperm Whales are the stars of the show and year-round residents. A typical Whale Watch tour may encounter New Zealand Fur Seals, pods of Dusky Dolphins and the endangered Wandering Albatross. Depending on the season you may also see migrating Humpback Whales, Pilot Whales, Blue Whales and Southern Right Whales. Kaikoura often hosts the worlds largest dolphin the Orca and is home to the worlds smallest and rarest marine dolphin the Hector’s. Kaikoura also attracts the largest concentration and variety of seabirds on mainland New Zealand including 13 species of Albatross, 14 varieties of Petrels and 7 types of Shearwater.

By Cate Broughton in New Zealand:

Excitement as first whales seen off Kaikoura coast since earthquake

17:59, November 20 2016

With their distinctive clicks the whales were back.

For Whale Watch Kaikoura general manager Kauahi Nga Pora and two staff, it came as a huge relief.

Using a tracking device called a hydrophone they were able to pick up the sound made by whales.

“We put the hydrophone in and then all of a sudden we heard the clicks… so instantly we knew there was a whale there, so obviously there was a fair amount of celebrating going on just with that.”

Six days after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake a high tide allowed the Whale Watch crew to get their boat out and check on the tahora – the sperm whale Kaikoura is famed for.

About 30 minutes after the clicks they tracked it down and were overcome with emotion, Nga Pora said.

“..the whale came up and it was just.. party time. Just to be right next to the whale after everything that has gone on it was quite, quite emotional actually.”

Nga Pora said he felt deep down the whales would not abandon their home in Kaikoura but with experts and scientists unsure of their response to the disruption of the quake, he was uncertain.

After the first sighting they moved to another location and saw another four whales.

As the group headed back to the coastline they saw seals, Dusky dolphins and birds including albatross, Nga Pora said.

“So that whole canyon environment that has built Kaikoura is still there, so that’s a significant boost to us all.”

There are still huge obstacles ahead before the business can open to tourists again, including access to Kaikoura and repair of the marina, which is now unusable in low tide.

But Nga Pora said seeing the whales had given him the drive to make it work once again.

“So once all those material things are fixed, the fabric and the core of the place is still there so we will be able to charge on and deliver the experience that so many people want to enjoy.”

With many homes destroyed, no water or power and cut off from assistance by road, the business and it’s staff had been in “survival mode”, looking after the people affected by earthquake.

It was not until Sunday, six days later, their thoughts turned to the future and the whales it depended on.

Whale Watch Kaikoura employs between 50-70 people and is the largest employer in the township, Nga Pora said.

“Our fortunes align with the fortune of many people and many rely on Whale Watch to survive.”

Big Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake


This video fom New Zealand 1 Minute After The Christchurch Earthquake – 22 February 2011 – 182 confirmed dead.

From Reuters news agency:

Magnitude 7.4 earthquake strikes near Christchurch, New Zealand; no tsunami warning

Published 40 min ago

An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 struck 91km north-north-east of the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, at 11.02 GMT on Sunday (Nov 13), the US Geological Survey said.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management said on its website that the National Crisis Management Centre is being activated.

“We are assessing the situation with the assistance of scientific advisors and Civil Defence groups. Expect aftershocks,” the statement said.

Christchurch is the biggest city on New Zealand’s South Island. A 6.3 quake there in February 2011 killed 185 people and caused widespread damage.

The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami threat from Monday’s quake.

However: Families warned to flee New Zealand coast ‘immediately’ over tsunami threat sparked by 7.4-magnitude earthquake: here.

Rarotonga flycatchers, threatened Pacific birds


This video says about itself:

Rimatara Lorikeet – found only on Rimatara (Tubuai Islands), Kiribati, Atiu (Cook Islands)
Rarotongan Fruit-dove – found only on Rarotonga and Atiu (Cook Islands)
Rarotongan Flycatcher – found only on Rarotonga and Atiu (Cook Islands)
Chattering Kingfisher – found only in Society Islands and Cook Islands

Videos, photography and sound recording by Philip Griffin, April 2014 – Atiu, Cook Islands

From BirdLife:

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation help staff of Cook Islands‘ partner save the Rarotonga Flycatcher

By Te Ipukarea Society, 12 Oct 2016

In August the conservation of the colourful Kakerori (Rarotonga Flycatcher) got a boost through a hands on training of local staff from visiting predator control specialists from New Zealand. Te Ipukarea Society project officers Liam and Alanna got up close and personal with the rare bird in the Takitumu Conservation Area (TCA) where they joined staff of New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC) as they traversed the rat baiting tracks, which are crucially important in keeping rat populations low enough to ensure the Kakerori’s survival. The two young officers learnt valuable techniques from the New Zealanders including setting up of mist nets and learning how to catch, measure, weigh and band the birds before releasing them back into the forest.

The Kakerori are the main characters in an inspiring Cook Islands conservation story. They were formerly common around Rarotonga, yet by the 1900s it was assumed they were extinct. However, in the 70s and 80s, surveys found that the Kakerori persisted in small numbers on the Southern side of Rarotonga. In the spring of 1987, Rod Hay and Hugh Robertson from New Zealand and Cook Islands biodiversity expert Gerald McCormack launched the Kakerori Recovery Programme, under the auspices of the Cook Islands Conservation Service, with volunteers. The first two breeding seasons established that the total population of 38 Kakerori were restricted to an area of about 150 hectares in the headwaters of adjacent valleys and that their eggs and nestlings were being destroyed by rats, the most common being the Ship Rat (Rattus rattus). And that the population decline was accelerating!

New Zealander Ed Saul became the backbone of the programme during the third season (1989): poisoning rats, protecting nests and documenting nest success. As a result of his continued efforts, initially as a volunteer and later as a member of the Cook Islands Conservation Service, the number of Kakerori rose from the low of 29 initiating his first season to more than 132 at the start of the 1996 breeding season. Today it is estimated there are over 400 Kakerori on Rarotonga. There is also a population of over 100 on Atiu, where a group of 30 birds had been translocated between 2001 and 2003, as Atiu is free of the ship-rat. This was done in order to further protect the species, in case something ever happened to the population on Rarotonga. Atiuan bird expert ‘Birdman George’ has been instrumental in the protection of these new inhabitants since their arrival on the island.

Passing on the expertise to a new generation of conservation leaders is essential to continuing the progress made in saving the threatened birds and nature of the Pacific and building on a project that owes so much to the dedication of individuals like Ed Saul.

New Zealand rat control and wildlife conservation


This video is about New Zealand wildlife.

From BirdLife:

Battle against expected rat explosion funded by New Zealand Goverment but core conservation funding cut

By Mike Britton, 30 May 2016

The Department of Conservation in New Zealand (DOC) has been allocated an extra $20.7 million to help fight back against an expected pest population boom caused by a heavy forest seeding, or mast. This autumn around a million tonnes of beech seed will drop to the forest floor, providing a bonanza of food for rats and causing their population to boom. As rats increase due to the readily-available food source, so will the number of stoats which feed on rats. Once the seeds germinate and the food source disappears in early spring, the plague of millions of starving rats and tens of thousands of hungry stoats will turn on native wildlife, bringing disaster if nothing is done. This is the second mast year in a row and places whole populations of endangered species at risk.

This occurrence is a worldwide phenomenon but in New Zealand it is particularly significant given the ability of the invasive predators to prey on New Zealand’s indigenous species. Previous mast years have led to massive decreases in populations of previously widespread birds like mōhua.

The so called `Battle for our Birds’ this year will see DOC ramp up pest control by 500,000 hectares, to cover more than 800,000 hectares of land. Aerial 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) operations will be backed by on-going trapping and ground control programmes. Pilot projects will also be run to test the effectiveness of using self-resetting traps to keep pests permanently out of an area following a 1080 operation.

Priority will be to vulnerable great spotted, brown and tokoeka kiwi, kaka, kea, whio/blue duck, mohua/yellowhead, kakariki/orange-fronted parakeet, rock wren, long and short tailed bats and giant snails. Research from DOC’s 2014 Battle for our Birds programme showed breeding success rates in areas treated with 1080 were far greater than in areas with no control. An example is the rock wren which raised three times more chicks than birds in an untreated area in 2014-15 and five times more chicks when the birds bred again a year later.

This is a victory for the advocacy of BirdLife New Zealand partner, Forest & Bird, which predicted this threat last year and advocated strongly for the response which has now been agreed.

But regrettably the hand that gives has also taken away. In the New Zealand budget announced this week, the allocation to the Department of Conservation, which looks after almost a third of the land area of New Zealand, has been cut – up to 9% according to some commentators.

Since its establishment DOC has faced a number of restructurings and significant budget cuts – and it is badly stretched. Large areas of the protected lands and national parks are receiving no pest or weed control and all the time people pressure on New Zealand’s natural areas is increasing. Tourism is growing exponentially and is now New Zealand’s biggest industry. And they all come to enjoy the beauty and nature of the country. Trying to cope with visitors is further reducing the Department’s ability to adequately look after the plants and animals and special places that so define New Zealand.

Forest & Bird is at the front line of advocating for the proper management and protection of nature in New Zealand.

Kākā parrots, welcome back in Wellington, New Zealand?


This video says about itself:

Kaka, New Zealand Parrot. Hear its various calls

12 August 2015

Kaka –Stewart Island, New Zealand. Very ‘talkative’ – love their calls.

Many years ago, I was privileged to see and hear kākā parrots, on a small sanctuary island just south of Stewart Island.

From BirdLife:

Return of Kākā to Wellington sparks controversy

By Mike Britton, 31 May 2016

Do city dwellers really want a return of wild species to the areas they once lived? It is a question being asked in many places, especially where some of the species moving back can conflict with the new inhabitants. In Wellington the impact of species reintroduced to the region by the Zealandia Sanctuary and the noise and ‘damage’ they can cause is creating controversy.

For most of the twentieth Century the birdlife in New Zealand’s cities mainly consisted of species European settlers brought with them, plus a few that got here by themselves from Australia. And they were mainly species that could survive the predation of other imports like rats and stoats and possums. Indigenous species like tui and New Zealand pigeon only survived on the city edges and were rare and special sightings for most people.

When I was in New Zealand then, I was lucky to see a New Zealand pigeon in a patch of forest just outside Wellington.

But the control of possums in and around cities and more areas where rat and other invasive pest control created safer neighborhoods for birds tipped the balance and allowed some like tuis to move back into urban places. The establishment of predator free sanctuaries was also a huge factor in providing safe places for species to be re-introduced to places from which they had largely disappeared. In Auckland the restoration and removal of invasive predators from islands in the Hauraki Gulf and also in the regional parks was the catalyst. This includes New Zealand BirdLife partner Forest & Bird’s hugely successful Ark in the Park, an area of almost 3000 ha, where invasive predators are controlled by its volunteers.

But in the capital, Wellington, the big tipping point was the establishment, 25 years ago, of the Zealandia Karori Sanctuary in a water catchment valley and its fencing with a predator-proof fence. This has transformed the bird life of the city. Species that now can call Wellington home include Hihi (Stitchbird), Kakariki (Red crowned parakeet), Tieke (saddleback), Takahe and Little Spotted Kiwi. Some prosper only behind the safety of the fence but combined with the possum control by the regional council and the big upswing in public and private predator control in Wellington generally, other species are spreading out from their secure base, and even starting to nest and fledge young.

Cats have been identified as a major threat to these species reclaiming their heritage habitats, in some cases, for the first time in over 100 years. There is now debate in Wellington over how cats are managed (and controlled) with limits on cat numbers and compulsory chipping, to identify pets from wild cats, are all some of the (controversial) ideas being considered by the Wellington City Council. Creating a halo around Zealandia, where predator control is extended, is another idea actively being promoted in the community.

But is the re-invasion of long gone birds to their historical habitats always welcomed by the new residents? When tui came back Forest & Bird regularly got calls from the public asking it to “control its noisy birds”. And they are noisy – one of the most beautiful songs.

This video says about itself:

Tui song

31 May 2014

New Zealand native tuis, native wood pigeon (kereru) and waxeyes (tauhou) in Purakaunui near Dunedin.

The BirdLife article continues:

But the latest controversy is about the impact of one of the magic parrots of New Zealand, the Kākā Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis. Kākā are a large, olive-brown forest parrot and is a ‘cousin’ to the alpine parrot, kea, a bird about which almost every visitor to New Zealand’s South Island alpine areas will have tales to tell.

Kākā have a loud call and also some beautiful songs and whistles. The word kākā can mean ‘screech’ in Māori. Kākā had effectively been extinct in Wellington since the early 20th century until they were transferred back into the wild at Zealandia in 2002.

From just 6 birds there is now a population of over 200 birds. But like their alpine cousins, Kākā can be mischievous and target exotic trees like pines and eucalypts. Kākā will tear bark off these trees looking to feed on insects and sap – and maybe just for fun. They like fruit too! Potential opponents note that now Wellington is once again becoming a suitable place for previously locally extinct birds to reclaim, what is the future? Potentially these populations will continue to grow and with some aspirational goals for controlling invasive predators, in the future more and more indigenous species may once again be wanting to share our cities with us. A kiwi in every garden is one of the (very) long term aims of the ‘save the kiwi’ campaign.

This raises many questions about our interaction with wildlife, our responsibilities and their rights. And in places where there are indigenous people with a long history of their own in the interaction with them – yes for food but also in their cultural context – their views are a critical part of the discussion. As conservationists we have a responsibility to be advocates for the birds and other animals when they start to return to places where we once were responsible for their loss. It’s their home and we need to share. But we need to be active in educating, informing and helping minimize conflict where we can.