Species Reintroductions


Restoration of indigenous species to regions they have disappeared from requires translocations, and New Zealand is internationally-recognised for its expertise in this area. Poutiri Ao ō Tāne initially proposed to reintroduce four ecologically-important (bring nutrients back into the environment) and charismatic bird species – tītī/Cook’s petrel, kōrure/mottled petrel, kākā, and kākāriki (yellow-crowned parakeet) to the Maungaharuru Range.

There have been successful reintroductions/ translocations of native species into the Poutiri Ao ō Tāne project area since 2013. Initial protection was needed to provide an environment for the birds to become established, so predator-free enclosures were built, and extensive trapping was carried out prior to the translocations.

The following species have been part of the reintroduction programme:

Tītī

The tītī range over the entire Pacific from New Zealand north to the Aleutian Islands and the west coast of the United States, but only breed in New Zealand. Although once widespread throughout mainland New Zealand, the impact of introduced mammals have greatly reduced its numbers and this species is now restricted to three offshore islands. By foraging at sea and returning to breed inland, tītī performed an important ecosystem function by importing marine nutrients which were deposited into the forest environment in the form of droppings. Tītī were an important food source for pre-European Māori who captured them by raiding burrows or by lighting fires to attract overflying birds.

In March 2013 the first translocation occurred. 50 tītī were translocated from Te Hauturu-o-Toi (Little Barrier Island) to the predator-proof fenced area on the Maungaharuru range, 48 of these birds fledged successfully. A further 302 were translocated there between 2014 and 2016. To date a total of 352 tītī have been transferred with 336 successfully fledging. Department of Conservation staff are closely watching the burrows from August to January for sign of returning birds. If they are found to be returning, there is a possibility that additional translocations will occur.

Year Number of chicks transferred Number of chicks fledged
2013 50 48
2014 114 106
2015 82 77
2016 106 105
Total 352 336

The Cape Sanctuary translocated tītī prior to the Poutiri project. They completed their translocations in 2013 with a total of 346 tītī fledging the site. Poutiri Ao ō Tāne is proud to join Cape Sanctuary in recreating a Hawke’s Bay population. Earlier this year we have the return of one of our tītī. He was confirmed as one of the birds translocated under the Poutiri Ao ō Tāne project on Waitangi Day and the local hapu gave their blessing for him to carry this name. The reintroduction of tītī to the Maungaharuru Range is also New Zealand’s first reintroduction of a seabird to an inland location (the Cape Sanctuary site boarders the ocean).

Another positive outcome was that the infrastructure development and focus of expertise in the Maungaharuru-Tutira area led to reintroduction plans for another seabird species – the kōrure/mottled petrel.

Kōrure

Kōrure were also found in the ranges of Hawke’s Bay, but are now only on southern offshore islands such as Whenua Hou (Codfish Island). This species had never been translocated before, so the first step was to fine tune methods to take account of specific requirements. Kōrure – unlike other translocated seabirds – have a largely krill-based diet. This project – led by Department of Conservation and Cape Sanctuary – has undertaken research into methods to successfully move these birds.

Unfortunately, the first scheduled kōrure translocation in April 2013 was cancelled due to poor weather conditions and the chicks being too advanced in their stage of growth. They need to be big enough to translocate without too much stress or injury but small enough that they will continue to grow and then fledge (leave the burrow) from the new site, as petrels return to breed from the site that they fledge from.

In 2014, 45 kōrure were translocated to the predator-proof fenced area from Whenua Hou (Codfish Island), as part of a trial. The trial proved successful allowing additional translocations to occur. Translocation have occurred each year since 2014 with a total of 269 kourere/mottle petrel being transferred and 268 fledging the site without issue. Another translocation is planned to occur in April 2018. We were also lucky enough to have one of our kōrure return earlier this year. He has yet to be named.

Year Number transferred Number fledged
2014 45 45
2015 82* 81
2016 45 45
2017 97* 97
Total 269 268

Kākāriki and Kākā

Parrots are highly charismatic, wide-ranging and respond positively and quickly to predator control. The inquisitive and noisy nature of the kākāriki and kākā make them excellent ambassadors for this project, and it is anticipated within several years of re-introduction they will be seen foraging across rural and urban landscapes.

Kākā and kakariki were once both endemic parrots common in Hawke’s Bay, but with the introduction of pests and habitat destruction these birds were reduced to only a few locations nationwide.

In 2011 a kākā aviary was built within Boundary Stream Mainland Island, for housing these birds prior to release. Feeding stations and predator-proof nest boxes for use by kākā and kākāriki following their release were also constructed. In September 2012, six kākā were transferred from Wellington Zoo and Pukaha Mount Bruce Reserve to the kākā aviary. In February 2014, they were released into the wild. Four of the birds were fitted with transmitters to monitor their locations and breeding activity. To date 21 birds have been released via the aviary, sourced from various captive breeding programmes and wild sites. The kākā are held in the aviary for a period of time to encourage site loyalty and to get them used to a diet of native vegetation. All released birds are banded with coloured metal rings to help identification of individuals once released. Up to 5 unbanded kākā have been sighted in the area, a positive indication that the released birds are breeding.

There are three species of kākāriki in New Zealand. Twenty-nine Yellow-crowned kākāriki were translocated in September 2012 from Mana Island to Boundary Stream Mainland Island. Due to an increase in rat numbers additional translocations were put on hold.

The rat numbers have now been brought down to below 5 per cent tracking tunnel rate, which is considered a safe level to introduce kakariki and we hope to do another translocation in Spring 2018.

Outcomes

Species translocations provide one of the most tangible milestones of ecological restoration and are a powerful tool for involving the community in restoration programmes. Also, there is no better ‘hook’ for the public than the opportunity to get up close to rare and threatened species. However, it takes years to demonstrate the success of reintroductions, and it is typical for there to be several years of supplementary releases before a species becomes established in an area. Nevertheless, initial indications – such as the early breeding of kākā and the high rate of fledging and return of tītī and kōrure – are positive signs that these reintroductions are heading in the right direction.

If this momentum continues the Maungaharuru-Tutira area will be considered a threatened species reintroduction ‘hotspot’. In fact, few other mainland areas have been the focus of so many reintroductions over such as short period of time.

The key learning from this work stream is that with suitable infrastructure and volunteer engagement in place, translocations can be undertaken rapidly and efficiently.

The next steps for this work stream are:

  • Monitor these translocations to see whether the kākā, titi, korure and kākāriki populations spread and increase.
  • Explore the utilisation of the predator-free seabird area for other species, such as tuatara, Powelliphanta snails, Cook’s straight giant weta, geckos and skinks, and for establishing seed sources of threatened plants such as kākābeak.

 

Contact Us

If you’d like to know more about Poutiri we’d love to hear from you!

Click here for more details…
Scroll to top