Pateke efforts pay off
After reading the article written by Neil Hayes on ‘A brief History of Ducks Unlimited Operation Pateke’ in the July 2014 issue of Flight, I feel there are a number of claims in his reference to pateke at Cape Kidnappers, which are inaccurate and need rectifying. I have taken the trouble to consult with the manager of The Cape Sanctuary, Tamsin Ward-Smith, to ensure I have the facts right.
In the past Mr Hayes has been in print promoting his criticism of the introduction of pateke to Cape Sanctuary, formally the Cape Kidnapper’s and Ocean Beach Wildlife Preserve. This time he goes further. He suggests that although the sites (Cape Sanctuary is one of five which he states are failures), had predator control programmes, they all failed because: (1) there are no wild populations of pateke in the area, (2) habitat was not suitable, (3) no suitable flock sites, (4) no suitable pateke habitat adjacent to these sites and (5) no suitably protected adjacent wetland for population expansion. Well, I’m afraid I don’t know what Mr Hayes regards as a success but for those of us with any knowledge of the pateke project at Cape Sanctuary it is anything but a failure.
Nearly every one of the 40 plus stock dams and ponds at the sanctuary have resident pairs. Numbers in excess of 60 birds are counted on the main flocking dams. Over 60 juveniles fledged last season (and that from only 10 pairs that were observed). Pateke are so numerous that they are no longer monitored to the ninth degree. They don’t need to be. They’re self-sustaining.
Amongst Mr Hayes reasons for proclaiming Cape Sanctuary is unsuitable for pateke is that there is no history of pateke in the area. This is incorrect. A palaeofaunal survey conducted by Trevor H Worthy specifies that pateke do indeed have a history there. Many pateke bones have been identified in the area. The fact that pateke are no longer present does not mean they should not be returned. Cape Sanctuary is about restoring the peninsula with fauna and flora representative of a healthy Hawke’s Bay forest and coastal system. Pateke were once a component of this system and so it makes sense to restore the wildlife that once inhabited the region as well. To date seven bird species have been successfully restored to Cape Sanctuary, including pateke. Programmes are also underway for four other forest bird species, as well as translocation programmes for grey-faced, Cook’s and diving petrel, tuatara and giant weta.
The habitat on Cape Kidnappers peninsula may not be what many may perceive to be ideal for pateke; pasture and pine forest dominate. However the remnant wild populations that exist in NZ today may only reflect the last strong-holds for this species and not necessarily a preferred habitat. Those members of the Recovery Group who supported an initial trial of 40 pateke to Cape Sanctuary in 2008 must be commended for breaking the mold and taking a risk. Pateke are known as a forest duck after all and extensive wetland areas are certainly not what many pairs at Cape Sanctuary are thriving in. Bathtub sized ponds suffice. Pateke are often seen in ‘mobs’ at night time 100s of metres from water busily working the pasture invertebrates.
Who are we to say what is suitable habitat and do we have options to be so choosy if we are to establish predator ‘safe’ populations and secure the long-term survival of this species?
True, pateke are moving out of Cape Sanctuary’s 2500 hectare protected area. Pateke sightings are regularly reported on the Maraetotara River, at Te Awanga and even as far as Clive River. Some may be lost, but by Mr Hayes own admission pateke are very territorial and, since the project is so successful, juveniles are forced out of the sanctuary simply because it is full. Some failure! If a few birds are lost outside Cape Sanctuary, the fact there is a thriving population within the predator controlled area, providing a “Pateke Bank,” has to be good news for the species.
Future protection for overflow birds (and not just pateke), is in the pipeline with a large scale, multi-agency, predator control and habitat restoration programme being established over 26,000 hectares immediately adjacent to Cape Sanctuary on outlying farmland. So in the longer term the odds on survival of pateke outside Cape Sanctuary will be high.
The fact that the Cape Sanctuary population is remote from the Northland and Coromandel regions has to be a plus as well.
I wish to correct Mr Hayes claims so that Banrock Station Wines can rest assured their initial sponsorship was not in vain, and that the efforts of volunteers and breeders has paid off. Pateke are thriving at Cape Sanctuary here in Hawke’s Bay.
Great place Great weekend
We’d like to thank the organisers of DUNZ annual meeting for a fabulous weekend at Brakenridge Lodge, Martinborough.
Once again we heard the conservation message and saw first-hand the amazing progress of wetland restoration being done. I believe the expertise we have amongst our membership and the track record of DU makes this organisation the leader in wet land preservation and re-establishment in NZ.
We are light years ahead of any other group.
Our suggestion is that the Board should be striving to become the “Consultants” of the industry.
The speaker from the Regional Council gave them the credence to do so. Other organisations are getting the kudos but DU is doing the practical work.
Once again thanks to all those doing the job.
Alice and Ross Hood