Ducks Unlimited
Friday, 23 February 2018 08:18

Special treatment for Egmont National Park

Project Taranaki Mounga, a ten year $24 million project involving pest eradication and reintroduction of species over the 34,000ha of Egmont National Park was last December given the green light with a funding commitment by the NEXT Foundation. 

Local philanthropic organisation the NEXT Foundation announced it would invest up to $15 million in the restoration of Taranaki’s native ecology. The Foundation has committed to funding Project Taranaki Mounga, a 10 year project involving pest eradication and reintroduction of species in Egmont National Park.

The venture between the NEXT, DOC, iwi, and the Taranaki community will begin with pest and weed control and the ecological restoration of Egmont National Park and a small number of volcanic peaks and offshore islands. NEXT and DOC have committed to funding the first phase of 18 months with strong interest from other parties. DOC has committed just over  $1.6 million for the first phase.

Work will start on phase one this February and  during the 18 months the project intends to:

  • complete a goat eradication feasibility  plan;
  • develop a translocation strategy for black  petrel; pateke, kaka, kakariki, takahe, kokako and short tailed bats;
  • develop a pest reinvasion monitoring regime;
  • extend the predator trapping network to protect birds particularly whio and kiwi.
  • translocate North Island robin into the park.

DOC Director General Lou Sanson said he was thrilled Project Taranaki Mounga has been given a green light with the commitment of funding from the NEXT Foundation.

“Project Taranaki Mounga has been recognised  as one of the next big exciting and bold conservation ventures,” said Lou Sanson.

The project’s vision is to protect our mountain for our wellbeing – Ko Taranaki tooku whakaruruhau.

“Given the strong Iwi connection and Whakapapa to Taranaki Mounga, Iwi are a critical partner in the successful delivery of this project.

Lou said the project will create a legacy of cultural, environmental and economic benefits for generations to come.

“Healthy flourishing ecosystems will sustain the quality and abundance of freshwater underpinning the Taranaki economy which adds to New Zealand’s image, and showcases this country’s leadership in pest eradication.

“It’s exciting knowing lessons learnt in Taranaki will be able to be transferred to even larger landscapes when successful,” said Lou.

Published in Issue 166
Friday, 23 February 2018 08:06

Brown teal/Pateke

The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust
Brown teal/Pateke

The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust’s seven brown teal/pateke breeding pairs laid their first clutches, with 34 ducklings hatched in total.

Laying of second clutches has now begun. Two older pairs have been released on Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf, making way for a clutch of orphans coming off Great Barrier Island – providing new genes for the captive breeding programme. The Trust continues to be the major breeder in producing the largest brown teal output for release into the wild.

Find out more about the Trust’s captive breeding activities on Facebook

Published in Issue 166
Friday, 23 February 2018 07:34

Order of Merit for top bloke

Why has James (better known as Jim) Campbell been awarded the Member of New Zealand Order of Merit? Usually it is for achievement or service to the community  and for Jim Campbell mainly for services to conservation.

But there is more – read on.

The Order is awarded to those “who in any field of endeavour have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and the nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions, or other merits”. That is our DUNZ Patron, our Jim. 

The list of reasons below makes that clear:

  • A sensitive farmer
  • A compulsive tree planter
  • A digger of large holes
  • A breeder of birds
  • An arch-enemy of vermin
  • A National Trust Covenanter
  • Patron of Ducks Unlimited New Zealand
  • A teller of tall (and short) stories
  • An outstanding host
  • A generous, encouraging and humble gentleman.

There are few people of the Wairarapa who haven’t heard of Jim Campbell – and many well beyond. His reputation as a farmer, conservationist, wetlands creator, water fowl breeder and welcoming host, precedes him. At age 73, an age at which for many, signal retirement, Jim Campbell is constantly in motion – helping, giving, inspiring, leading and directing in the cause of environmental quality.

If ever an Honour was richly deserved; this is it – long overdue to an outstanding environmental role model.

Alan Fielding

Published in Issue 166
Friday, 23 February 2018 07:03

River Story Award and Morgan Foundation

In conjunction with Kaiwaiwai Dairies Ltd, Ducks Unlimited NZ won joint first place in the River Story Award at a recent Morgan Foundation Dinner.

Held at the Ridges Hotel in Wellington, the Award recognises conservation efforts to improve water quality before it enters lakes and waterways.

Kaiwaiwai Dairies received the award for the construction of a  serpentine waterway on their farm to slow the passage of the water down, thereby allowing more time for nature to extract nutrients from the water.

DUNZ was recognised for the effort we have put into Wairio (Southern Wairarapa) for not only the creation of water fowl habitat but for also slowing down the water so when it enters Lake Wairarapa it has a greatly reduced nutrient loading.

Our thanks go to all the organisations that have contributed time and money over the last 10 years.

The family of Joanne and Gareth Morgan of Wellington established this charitable trust primarily for the purpose of reducing wealth disparities between people. In particular the focus of the Foundation is on improving the lives of the poorest folk in the world and enabling people to participate in their society and workplaces to the full extent of their potential. The Foundation work extends in New Zealand to public interest research and education as well as to investment in conservation and natural environmental enhancement.

The trustees are Joanne, Gareth and independent Charles Purcell. The advisory board for the trust comprises the Morgan’s four children –  Ruby, Floyd, Jessi and Sam. The Manager of the Trust is Margaret Mather, whose responsibilities include liaising with applicants for funding, administering the grants programme, and ensuring the Foundation participates in philanthropic community activities to the extent the trustee’s desire. The trust has no religious orientation although willingly finances religious-based organisations doing work that satisfies their criteria.

Published in Issue 166
Friday, 16 February 2018 08:18

Project Bittern (Matuku) Report

Ducks Unlimited NZ AGM (23 July 2016)

Emma Williams has continued working on the bittern project assisted by me and other volunteers. 

Key points are:

  1. Emma graduated with her Doctorate  Degree at Massey University which was based on bittern research. A huge thank you to DU for helping fund a major part of her work to learn more about this iconic critically threatened species.
  2. A total of 10 male bitterns (six 2014 and four 2015) were captured at Lake Whatuma and transmitters attached. Of these 10 birds, nine left the lake over summer with one bird remaining on the lake. The bird that remained on the lake was found dead in late April in raupo and cause of death unknown. Four of the birds have returned to the lake in July and one other is being monitored at a  wetland 10kms away. In spite of extensive  searching the location of the remaining four birds is unknown, but it is most likely they will return to the lake in time for spring like birds did last year. The DU funded transmitters have contributed significantly to our much increased knowledge of this secretive bird.
  3. Emma travelled to Christchurch earlier this year to place transmitters on two bittern chicks that had been found abandoned not far from Travis wetland on the outskirts of Christchurch. These have been monitored by local people. One bird is still alive near the mouth of the Waimakariri River north of Christchurch and the other was found dead in mid May near the mouth of the Opihi River over 100kms south of Christchurch. This bird was examined and appeared to have died of starvation which is not uncommon overseas with bittern. Very interesting results plotting the movement of this juvenile bird and proves that bittern can move considerable distances.
  4. We held a very successful meeting on April 6 for the local Waipukurau community, landowners and Iwi to up-date them on the bittern project. Over 50 people attended and DU received well deserved acknowledgment for their significant contribution to the project.
  5. Emma has done no further school talks in the Wairarapa but will complete others this spring organised jointly between her and Gill Lundie. She has spoken to a number of schools in Hawke’s Bay. Emma continues to provide written articles for Flight.
  6. Bittern are a species under severe threat from wetland loss, predation, poor food supply and human disturbance. Population trends are negative. The Department of Conservation operate a conservation threat classification system of bittern and last month bittern were upgraded to the highest level of Nationally Critical Threatened Species. Kakapo and takahe  share the same ranking which highlights  the plight of this iconic wetland bird.
  7. It is important that DU continue to support  the bittern conservation programme and encourage others (DOC, Forest & Bird) to commit to the preparation of a national bittern recovery plan.
  8. In 2015 DU Directors agreed to support the bittern project to the level of $25,000 to enable Emma Williams to continue her research work and purchase transmitters. Expenditure to date is (Emma Williams $7322) and (transmitters $9211.25). The remaining $8467 will be utilised this coming spring/summer.

John Cheyne

Coordinator Project Bittern (Matuku)

Published in Issue 168
Friday, 16 February 2018 07:50

Whio in the spotlight

With less than 3000 whio around New Zealand, they need all the help they can get.

A two-day Whio Recovery Workshop was held in June at Tokaanu, near Turangi, where people with a passion for the endangered nativeblue duck gathered to hear information, ask questions and get what answers they could, although the overwhelming conclusion was that there is still lots more to be done. 

More than 50 people involved in whio protection in the North Island took part in the workshop, which was held at the Genesis Energy Tokaanu Power Station. 

The attendees were able to grow and maintain links with like-minded people, share their skills, learn more about research and consider some of the innovations being tried to ensure the safety of whio and increase its numbers. That included new and better ways to keep predators away and, if possible, eliminate themwith best practice monitoring and trapping techniques.

The workshop group also visited the Turangi Trout Fishery, where they were shown how to set and use predator traps and how to set nets to catch ducks.

The recovery programme  involves not only paid workers, but  private organisations and volunteers. They give up their own time to set traps, walk trap lines every two to three weeks,and keep an eye on the ducks at the same time.

This workshop was not just a talkfest, but included the chance to learn about the latest research and tools, and take part in practical demonstrations such as trap maintenance and safety. 

Threats to whio

Introduced predators are the whio’s worst  enemies.  A whio recovery plan includes trapping and the use of toxins to reduced predators. Without such work, there would be no whio.   

Stoats are the main killers, along with ferrets, feral cats, falcons and dogs. But events such as floods, that scour out riverbanks, can take away the whio’s food source. Even resource consents, water use and discharge of dirty water are a threat. Then, for the females, their moulting phase makes them vunerable to predators, as they cannot fly away.

The recovery project, without which the whio would be gone, is expensive and a significant partner is a necessity. Genesis Energy has stepped in to provide funding - $2 million overfive years - and its staff  have become involvedin helping with recovery projects. 

In the early 1980s, the Moawhango Tunnel was commissioned in the upper Tongariro River and whio numbers decreased in that area because of the changed flow volumes of the river. By 2004, however, work was done to create a minimum flow and the population rebounded. 

Predation remains the key risk

Around the country, both Government workers  and volunteers continue to trap predators and take care of eggs. Floods can wipe out a whole season’s ducklings. There is also a need to increase gender diversity and the transfer of juveniles to other areas helps with this.

Recent use of DOC200 traps and double set traps (where two predators are caught in the same trap), along with aerial 1080 drops, have helped survival.  David Rogerson reported setting 85 traps and catching 50 rats a fortnight along the Maramataha River in the King Country. Malcolm Swanney trained Fern, a German short-haired pointer dog, to become a champion whio finder who will never hurt a bird.

The Ruahine Ranges

Janet Wilson, a keen tramper from the  Manawatu, started work as a DOC volunteer trapper in 2011 in the Ruahines.

The Ruahine Whio Protection Trust was formed as a collective and now a strong group of volunteers works along120 kilometres of the range. Many drive to Napier and work the Napier ridge to the Orva and back south. There are 1500 traps and it is steep terrain. 

Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club volunteers drive to Hawke’s Bay once a month to check and manage traps from that side.

Janet said she was disappointed that not enough protection work was done by DOC. Along those ranges there were 60 huts, mostly old. There are 500 plus tracks, and lots of rivers. “We have seven groups working together as a collective and using DOC200 traps.”

Jessica Scrimgeour said Janet and the collective have worked hard to keep the system going. “Janet’s commitment has driven the plan over the years.”

Taranaki trial

A trial whio recovery plan was put in place  during 1999-2000 in Taranaki to investigate a viable population.  Fifteen birds were introduced, but, for a variety of reasons, did not survive. The group persevered with stoat control in 2002 and in 2008, they released 170 ducks, with a 50-50 gender balance.

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of pairs has been good with a survival rate of about 81 percent. The next phase is to increase gender diversity. Predator control remains essential, but it was also found that it is best to transfer juveniles and not adults to other areas.

Some New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association members have agreed to help out by checking traps while out hunting.

Tongariro

Rachel Abbot talked about the Kia Whariti  biodiversity project, which also involves DOC and Genesis Energy, in the 20,000-hectare Tongariro forest, bordered by the Whakapapa, Whanganui and Mangatepopo rivers, where they are using DOC 200 traps plus double set traps, and aerial 1080 drops. Since 2007,  trapping has been in progress with 700 traps  along the trap line.

Future threats

Another possible threat to whio is plantation  forestry logging. However, recent information suggests that forestry companies who are aware of the presence of ducks will move their operations away from any nesting sites until the chicks have left. 

The Whio Workshop was a success, but there’s such a lot to do, so let’s hope it will lead to more protection for the lovely whio. Alison Beath, the convenor, a senior ranger with DOC, is to be congratulated on the event. 

Published in Issue 168
Friday, 16 February 2018 07:47

Million Dollar Mouse pest drops completed

The ambitious Million Dollar Mouse pest eradication project on remote Antipodes Island in the sub-antarctic was completed ahead of schedule in July. 

A second helicopter drop of rodent bait across the island was finished in July, following a first phase completed on June 29.

“Despite very unsettled weather conditions, the Million Dollar Mouse team have done an outstanding job of making use of every available weather window to get the bait drop completed,” Ms Barry, Minister of Conservation said.

“This is the most challenging pest eradication ever carried out in New Zealand and is a globally significant conservation achievement, safeguarding a unique, remote and forbidding land and the many extraordinary species living there.”

Mice are the only introduced predator on the island, which is home to endemic species such as the Reischek’s and Antipodes Island parakeets, snipe and pipit, thousands of seabirds and marine mammals.

“The second bait drop by mid-July is a major step on the way to returning Antipodes to the way it was before the arrival of humans, pests and weeds.

Million Dollar Mouse was jointly funded by DOC, the Morgan Foundation, Island Conservation, WWF-New Zealand and public donations.

Total eradication of mice cannot be confirmed until a monitoring team visit the island in 2018.

To find out more, visit the Million Dollar Mouse website

Published in Issue 168
Friday, 16 February 2018 07:39

Mallards in focus – and still under threat

There is an erratum that is worth mentioning – in regards to the shallow ponds being most used by broods. The shallow ponds are all less than 43cm deep. This is the depth that is recognised in literature as the maximum depth adult mallards can reach when tipping up to feed (Phillips 1923 & Olney 1960 in Perret 1962).

Additionally, staff  have now completed sifting through the 250,000+ photos from our ‘Operation Duck Pond’ study. As anticipated, ponds in Southland that were used most often by broods had the following attributes:

  • A greater area of shallow feeding zone, defined as pond depth being less than 43cm (the accepted maximum depth an adult duck will feed on the bottom). The majority of the top producing ponds were in fact, 100 percent shallow feeding zone. This resulted in many photos of feeding ducks, “heads down, bums up!”
  • A higher availability of food items present (such as macroinvertebrates: waterboatmen, freshwater snails, etc). Obviously, there are many factors that affect the presence and abundance of these food items in a pond.
  • A suitable level of shelter particularly from the south and west pond edges, and overhead cover present along the western edge.
  • A fence to keep stock off the pond periphery so that vegetated edges were not grazed by livestock. Whether this is a relationship with stock disturbance, or degree of vegetation, we do not know.
  • Creating shallow (or seasonal) ponds and wetlands that are protected from the elements will be a broods favourite retreat. These factors, coupled with successful predator control should see more ducklings (and mothers) survive the breeding season. However, that leads us to our next study.

This upcoming mallard breeding season the game cameras will be placed throughout the landscape aiming to capture images of mallard nest predators, namely stoats, ferrets and feral cats. This will be combined with a heavy trapping regime and monitoring of nests within a marked study area. We look forward to reporting on our results! 

Perret, N.G. 1962. The spring and summer foods of the common mallard (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos L.) in south  central Manitoba. Unpubl. MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 

And -Yeh – looks like the same cat,  obviously included the pond in its circuit – have a dozen photos where you can just see the ears and head in the grass, where it obviously just sat and watched for ages! (Camera was set on time lapse, taking photos every 5 minutes).

Erin Garrick

Published in Issue 168
Friday, 16 February 2018 07:33

DUNZ member honoured for conservation work

Conservation rates highly with DUNZ members, so it’s not surprising that one of our own received an award for commitment to the cause in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Andrew (Andy) Graeme Lowe, of Havelock North, a long-time member of Ducks Unlimited, was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to conservation.

Andy is the managing director of Lowe Corporation in Hawke’s Bay and has been the initiator and vision-keeper for Te Matau a Maui, the Cape Kidnappers Sanctuary, which is the largest privately funded mainland wildlife reserve in New Zealand.   

In 2006, Andy and other land owners began an ambitious project to restore the Cape Kidnappers peninsula back to its former wildlife glory. Covering 2500 hectares, the  sanctuary has the most diverse range of native  bird life on coastal mainland New Zealand.

Cape Sanctuary is owned by Julian Robertson  and the Hansen and Lowe families who share the vision to restore the coastal community of land birds, sea birds, reptiles and invertebrates that once flourished there. 

The project aims to achieve significant biodiversity gains alongside existing land uses of farming, forestry, recreation and tourism. The sanctuary includes a DOC reserve of 13ha.

There is also the Cape to City venture, a wide-scale predator control and ecological restoration project over 26,000ha of land between Hastings and Cape Kidnappers, extending south to include Waimarama and forest remnants at Kahuranaki. This is a sister venture to the successful Poutiri Ao o Tane ecological restoration project in the Maugaharuru ranges, near Tutira. 

The Cape Sanctuary project is also part of  Cape to City and is a partnership between the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, DOC, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and various landowners and businesses, and has funding from the Aotearoa Foundation.

Andy is also involved with the Martins Bay restoration at the end of the Hollyford Valley in Fiordland National Park. Known as a “biodiversity hotspot”, the area has unparalleled marine and terrestrial landscapes, habitats, flora and fauna, ranging from  fragile dune systems and wetlands to unique  prodocarp forest, and is the only place in the country where bottlenose dolphins enter a fresh water lake. 

Published in Issue 168
Saturday, 23 December 2017 09:23

Whio in decline

Whio in decline…

The whio (blue duck) is one of New Zealand’s ancient endemic waterfowl species and is classified as Threatened (Nationally Vulnerable) in the New Zealand Threat Classification System 2012, and listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

North Island and South Island whio populations are genetically distinct (though they are not described as sub-species) and are treated as separate management units. The whio has experienced rapid declines (particularly in the South Island) in abundance and distribution, nowhere common. It lives at low densities in severely fragmented populations. The most recent estimate of total population numbered 1200 pairs at most. 

The most notable decline driver comes from introduced mammalian predators, with predation of eggs, young and incubating females. Stoats are the most significant threat and stoat control is a main focus of management activities. 

The blue duck’s widespread decline throughout South Island beech forests areas has highlighted the insidious effects of mast-seeding beech trees, which result in great predation pressure, as rodent populations explode, causing a lagged increase in stoat populations which seek alternative prey when rodent numbers crash. A malebiased sex-ratio throughout the range, indicates that predation during incubation is significant. 

One of the major conservation management tools for whio is captive breeding for release into the wild. The blue duck has been held in captivity for many years, and its husbandry requirements are understood. The aim is to maximise productivity of the captive breeding programme, and ensure that captive-bred ducklings are released at the highest priority sites. Captive breeding has proven highly effective, and is vital in aiding the recovery programme with the re-establishment and rebuilding of viable populations throughout the former range.

The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust provides the largest output of blue duck juveniles annually, with its waterfowl aviaries being the most successful captive breeding enclosures in New Zealand for North Island blue duck. The Trust currently holds two North Island blue duck breeding pairs. These breeding pairs can lay up to three clutches per season, with an average of six eggs per clutch. All eggs are collected for incubation and hand rearing.

The Trust is a significant participant in the WHIONE programme, which consists of retrieving wild eggs each breeding season from South Island pairs for artificial incubation and rearing in captivity, with a subsequent release of juveniles once fledglings have been hardened in our fast water facilities and are at a lower risk of predation. Releases take place in natal territories or at new sites around the South Island to increase numbers and genetic diversity across sites  or re-establish lost populations.  Since 2016 the Trust has been retaining cohorts of South Island blue duck juveniles for flock mating, to initiate a captive breeding population across several South Island facilities. The Trust will move out of North Island birds and hold three pairs of the South Island blue duck.

Each season for the last 12 years, the Trust has also received North Island blue duck juveniles bred by other captive institutions nationwide, which are transferred for pre-conditioning in fast flowing raceways prior to release into the wild.

Sabrina Luecht

Wildlife Project Administrator

The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust

Published in Issue 171
Page 2 of 4