A mainland island conservation project in Piopiotahi/Milford Sound
The demigod Tu-te-Rakiwhanoa was well practised in wielding his axe by the time he carved Piopiotahi/Milford Sound in Fiordland's north. The iconic Mitre Peak, the high vertical walls, the glacial cirque at the head of Sinbad Gully, combined with a cold, wet climate together form a tough physical barrier for predators on the move.
This means that Sinbad Gully, so named, albeit rather wistfully by Donald Sutherland in the 1870s who hoped to find diamonds and rubies there, is indeed a treasure trove, but of a different kind.
The wildlife needing help?
As recently as the 1970's, there were kakapo in Sinbad Gully, one of the last populations on mainland New Zealand. Even now it is home to a number of very rare lizard species with new species of gecko and skink recently discovered, some clinging to rock ledges 1600 metres above sea level with frost damage to their bodies - a species of gecko, the “Cascade” gecko, two species of Skink, the “Sinbad” (this gully being its only known location) and “Mahogany” skinks. Weka, whio, kea, kaka, large weta and other large colourful invertebrates are also still present.
For this reason, and because of its topography, conservationists identified Sinbad Gully as a natural mainland ‘island’ suitable for concentrated pest control. The high vertical valley walls surrounding the Gully form the natural barrier that has limited the invasion of introduced predators.
The Gully's location in Fiordland National Park's Milford Sound, within Te Wahipounamu - South West New Zealand's world heritage area, added to the sense of it.
What is being done to help?
The introduced animal pests needing to be controlled have a serious impact on native wildlife through direct predation and competition for food. Control of both stoats and possums is the key focus for the Sinbad Sanctuary project. Following initial knockdown, ongoing control work maintains low predator densities, achieved through regular servicing of stoat traps and by monitoring possum densities and controlling as required. In time, if funding allows, rodent and deer control may also become a focus in the Sinbad.
Who has come to the rescue?
In was in August 2009, that the Fiordland Conservation Trust announced its exciting new partnership with Southern Discoveries, establishing the Sinbad Sanctuary. The aim of the project is to see the valley of New Zealand’s most photographed mountain become a sanctuary for some of our most endangered native species with hopefully an increase in numbers in years to come and even the reintroduction of some of the species that previously inhabited the gully.
The Sinbad Sanctuary joint project also includes the Department of Conservation who provide the technical expertise.
A long term commitment from Southern Discoveries
Exciting update - August 2014:
Having funded this incredibly important project for the first 5 years, during what proved to be some challenging global financial times, Southern Discoveries announced their continuing commitment to the Sinbad Sanctuary project. A new operational plan is being developed to build on the solid work already done.
To read more of the Sinbad Sanctuary news go to Sinbad Sanctuary news archives.