Fiordland plays its part - with help from Ultimate Hikes
- the users of the Milford Track
Travelling from the head of Lake Te Anau over the Pass to the Arthur River Valley on the Milford side was first undertaken by Katimamoe, it being one of their greenstone trails.
European tourists began negotiating the rugged terrain in the 1890s after explorers, prospectors, surveyors and prisoners had all made their mark, creating what became the iconic Milford Track.
The track now has approximately 16,000 walkers annually.
- the residents of the valley
Pateke/brown teal happily dabbled the waters of the Arthur River Valley for all users of the area to enjoy until the mid 1990s. But the infamous stoats also found their way into the valley, and as was happening throught the country, decimated the local population of pateke.
The pateke is endemic and although once our most abundant endemic water fowl, through cross breeding, habitat loss and predation it quickly moved to the status of New Zealand’s most endangered species of waterfowl with as few as 660 in 2001.
- removing the unwanted newcomers
Stoat control for the protection of Whio/Blue Duck began in the Arthur River Valley in 2003 and the Joes River in 2005. It made sense therefore when the national Pateke Recovery group was deciding on a South Island location for releasing from its captive breeding programme, that the Arthur River Valley be selected as the southern site for re-establishing a secure population of the pateke.
The Pateke recovery project outline
The Pateke Conservation project managed by the Department of Conservation utilises proven methodology and provides excellent protection for the pateke/Brown Teal.
In March 2009 twenty sub-adult pateke were released into the Arthur River Valley (Fiordland National Park) to trial whether our predator control programme was sufficient to ensure their survival.
Before the release of the initial 20 birds an additional network of one hundred stoat trap tunnels was established around the release site and in the areas where we believed the birds would establish territories. To date this has been one of the most successful releases of pateke anywhere in the country.
Former Trust manager Rachel Cockburn holds one of the released pateke.
Photo © Barry Harcourt
Some of the 80 pateke released on the 24th Feb 2011. From left: Kevin Evans - pateke recovery group, Sabine Bernert - photographer NZ conservation projects, Brian Wickstead - TV1 Wild Vets Cameraman, Emma Cournane - Peacock Springs duck rearing facility, and Andrew (Max) Smart - DOC Te Anau. Photo © Barry Harcourt
Supplementary food stations are established at the release site allowing transition from a captive diet to foraging for their own food. Attaching transmitters to the birds means that during spring, summer and autumn DOC staff can regularly monitor survival. During winter the monitoring drops back to one radio tracking helicopter flight every two weeks. If weather allows some time is spent in the field allowing close monitoring to occur.
Advocacy information is provided at Dumpling Hut outlining the project and the sponsors involved. E.g. in addition to Ultimate Hikes sponsorship, Real Journeys has provided a flight from Queenstown to Milford return and a couple of minders to transfer the pateke.
'Naked' fluffy ducks sighted!
The exciting news in January 2012 was that on a monitoring and stoat trapping trip in the Lake Ada area of the Arthur Valley, a 'naked' (as in unbanded) fluffy duckling was seen - confirmation of the first successful breeding of the captive-reared pateke released back into Fiordland. In fact three fully feathered fledglings have been sighted.
The planned release in February was delayed to avoid the height of the stoat season; also an issue with the transmitters' brightly coloured aerials (used to help individual identification of birds) being attractive to predators needed to be resolved. To further complicate things, there has been a cut in the DOC Pateke Recovery Group's budget and so future releases will require extra outside funding.
Future releases of pateke into the Arthur River Valley