Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Coromandel proves a conservation dream

The Department of Conservation (DOC) says brown kiwi are thriving in Eastern Coromandel as sustained predator control by DOC and the local community pays off for the threatened birds.

Surveying of kiwi in the area between Tairua and Hot Water Beach has shown a 10% increase from 2015 to 2020.

DOC says numbers are expected to continue to increase following the recent distribution of biodegradable 1,080 bait pellets at Whenuakite which will provide further protection to kiwi from stoats.

Whenuakite Kiwi Care Group spokesperson, Janice Hinds says the area’s kiwi benefit from a combined predator control approach.

“We have an amazing crew of landowners who contribute to on-ground predator control covering 3,500 hectares.”

“Then, every 3-4 years the Department of Conservation and Waikato Regional Council apply 1080 bait – cleaning up the possums destroying the canopy, and the trap-shy rats and mustelids we miss. The difference is extraordinary.”

Coromandel has a long history of environmental protection and conservation work, much of it focused on species found in its expansive forests.

DOC Biodiversity Ranger, Leon Pickering says vulnerable brown kiwi are a particular focus of the aerial predator control programme.

“We know that kiwi chicks are especially at risk – with up to 95% loss of chicks being killed by predators in some locations,” he said.

“Sustained predator control, a paired system like this, means around 60% of the chicks make it to adulthood.”

Monitoring has shown the recent aerial 1080 operation in Whenuakite managed to reduce rodents to an undetectable level. Stoats have also been controlled, at a rate of 90-100% on average, through secondary poisoning as they feed on rodent carcasses.

While kiwi are more active at night, Ms Hinds says during the day there are further signs of the biodiversity gains from the programme.

“We’ve seen flocks of kererū – up to 250 at a time, and the tomtits are spreading up from the South, we’ve seen pōhutukawa trees flower for the first time in a lifetime.”

Mr Pickering says the support of the community has been critical to achieving this success.

“We’ve had landowners coming across kiwi in their backyards – they’re seeing the results – more and more are coming to us and asking to be involved.”

Whenuakite Kiwi Care Group says it is in it “for the long haul”.

“Dad (Arthur Hinds 1946-2017) was involved from the early days, and now it’s a family thing – we just got our 2-and-a-half year-old grandson some tramping boots, that’s some succession planning!”, says Ms Hinds.

“We would like to thank Save the Kiwi and Waikato Regional Council for their financial support to keep our work going.”

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