21st August, 2018
Two ground-breaking translocation projects have been undertaken by the Fiordland Conservation Trust, in partnership with Fiordland Lobster company, private donors, Te Rūnaka o Ōraka Aparima, Te Kaitiaki Roopū o Murihuku and DOC.
Over the last two weeks, 50 tīeke were transferred to Five Fingers Peninsula/Tau Moana in Dusky Sound, from predator-free Chalky Island, joining 138 tīeke relocated last year, which have successfully established over a significant portion of the Peninsula. A transfer of 60 tīeke to nearby Pigeon Island (78ha) from Chalky Island also took place in conjunction with the second transfer of tīeke to Five Fingers Peninsula. Five Fingers Peninsula (3300 ha) adjoins Resolution Island/Mauikatau, Fiordland’s largest island (20,888 ha).
Lindsay Wilson, DOC Principal Ranger (Biodiversity), said one project aimed to top-up last year’s new tīeke population on Five Fingers Peninsula. “Post-release monitoring demonstrated that those birds had settled in well, establishing territories over approximately two thirds of the Peninsula and breeding occurred in their first summer. This year’s second transfer is aimed at maximising the likelihood of a successful population continuing to establish and to get the population up to a resilient size as quickly as possible.
“This is certainly looking like the game changer for tīeke we hoped it would be. Given the size of Five Fingers Peninsula, the successful establishment of this population has the potential to significantly improve the tīeke current ‘At Risk’ classification. The relocation of tīeke to nearby predator free Pigeon Island is similarly aimed at boosting the recovery of tīeke and enhancing the ecosystem recovery of this iconic site ", he said.
Kim (FCT trustee and Heli pilot for projects) with Phillip Grubb, Fiordland Lobster Company representative releasing tieke on Pigeon Island. Photo: Laura Harry, FCT
Fiordland Lobster Company previously funded stoat control on Pigeon Island, with the island sanctuary being declared predator free in 2007. Fiordland Lobster Company have also successfully transferred South Island robin/kakaruai and mohua/yellowhead to Pigeon Island.
Fiordland Conservation Trust Deputy Chairman Murray Willans, a member of the catching teams said the second successful transfer to Five Fingers Peninsula was made possible with the support of the Trust’s partners and everyone involved should feel very pleased with the result.
“Both projects have been generously funded by conservation stalwart Fiordland Lobster Company; while renown NZ artist Gerda Leenards and Lucy Bellerby also assisted with funding the Five Fingers transfer, without whom, these projects would not have been possible.
“Hopefully, new tīeke populations on both islands will be the result.“
A network of nearly 3000 traps keep stoats at near-zero levels on Five Fingers Peninsula and very low levels on Resolution Island. There is no evidence of stoats being present on Pigeon Island since their removal in 2007.
In the past 50 years, South Island tīeke have recovered from a low of about 36 birds to nearly 3000 on predator-free islands but population growth has stalled due to these islands reaching carrying capacity.
Mohua and kakaruai have been returned to Resolution Island in recent years. Resolution Island is also home to rock wren/pīwauwau and Southern Fiordland tokoeka/South Island brown kiwi. Other abundant birdlife present on the Peninsula include mata/fernbird, South Island kākā, tītipounamu/rifleman, pīpipi/brown creeper, korimako/bellbird and tawaki/Fiordland crested penguin.
DOC - Murray and Heather (FCT trustees and catching team members) with Ron Bull from Oraka Aparima runaka releasing tieke on Five Fingers Peninsula. Photo: Em Oyston, DOC