One of our rarest and most endangered native birds, the New Zealand shore plover has been released on pest free Motutapu Island to increase its chances of survival.
The total population of New Zealand shore plover -Tuturuatu- in the wild is around 200.
The Department of Conservation released 17 of these critically endangered native shore birds on Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park yesterday (Sunday February 19).
Motutapu and neighbouring Rangitoto Island were declared pest free sanctuaries for threatened native wildlife and plants six months ago by Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson. This marked the removal of nine animal pests – ship rats, Norway rats, stoats, possums, mice, wallabies, feral cats, hedgehogs and rabbits – from both islands.
Shore plover were once widespread around the coast of the North and South Islands. They were wiped out on main land New Zealand by Norway rats and feral cats. These predators reduced the shore plover population to a single island, Rangatira, in the Chatham Islands, which is free of animal pests.
Twenty years ago there were only 130 shore plover left, all living on Rangatira Island. In the early 1990s shore plover eggs from Rangatira were successfully hatched at the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre in northern Wairarapa. This led to a captive breeding programme being established at the wildlife centre.
Shore plover are also bred by the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust at Peacock Springs in Christchurch. This is where the 17 birds released today were bred. A further 15 shore plover bred at Pukaha Mt Bruce will be released on Motutapu in early March.
DOC began moving captive bred shore plovers onto islands to establish new populations in the wild in the mid 1990s. Shore plover are now living and breeding on Mana Island, north of Wellington, and on a privately owned island off the East Coast of the North Island.
“Shore plover remain critically endangered,” says DOC ranger Hazel Speed.
“We need to establish more new homes for them on pest free islands like Motutapu where they’re safe from rats, feral cats and other animal predators and their numbers can grow.”
Shore plover are the latest at risk native species to be released by DOC onto Motutapu and Rangitoto since the islands were declared pest free sanctuaries on August 27 last year.
T�eke- saddleback – released on Motutapu and Rangitoto, have successfully hatched a number of chicks on both islands.
Critically endangered takah� have also been released on Motutapu along with two freshwater species – koura (freshwater crayfish) and redfin bullies – which have declining populations.
“It’s wonderful to be see shore plover joining the other threatened species we’ve released on Motutapu and Rangitoto since we rid the islands of animal pests,” says Hazel Speed.
“Motutapu and Rangitoto are a valuable addition to the network of pest free islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park that provide safe homes for threatened native wildlife.”
“We’re asking people to keep an eye out for these critically endangered birds as they may fly to beaches on Auckland’s mainland. If anyone sees a shore plover at an Auckland beach please let DOC know.”
“Releasing shore plover on Motutapu provides an opportunity for the birds to establish a breeding population on other pest free islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park such as Motuihe, Rakino and Motukorea,” say Hazel Speed
Motutapu and Rangitoto are managed by DOC. The department is working with iwi, the Motutapu Restoration Trust and the Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust to restore the natural and cultural heritage of the islands.