Tieke transfers significant game changer

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Murray Willans and Heather Barnes, both Fiordland Conservation Trust trustees and members of the catching teams, with Ron Bull, of Oraka Aparima Runaka, release tieke on Five Fingers Peninsula. Photo: Em Oyston, Department of Conservation

TWO ground-breaking translocation projects have been undertaken by the Fiordland Conservation Trust, in partnership with the Fiordland Lobster Company, private donors, Te Runaka o Oraka Aparima, Te Kaitiaki Roopu o Murihuku and the Department of Conservation (DoC).

Last month, 50 tieke (saddleback) were transferred to Five Fingers Peninsula/Tau Moana in Dusky Sound from predator-free Chalky Island, joining 138 tieke relocated last year, which have successfully established over a significant portion of the peninsula. A transfer of 60 tieke to nearby Pigeon Island (78ha) from Chalky Island also took place in conjunction with the second transfer of tieke to Five Fingers Peninsula. Five Fingers Peninsula (3300 ha) adjoins Resolution Island/Mauikatau (20,888ha), Fiordland’s largest island.

DoC principal ranger (biodiversity) Lindsay Wilson said one project aimed to top-up last year’s new tieke 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 nd 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 tieke 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 tieke current At Risk classification. The relocation of tieke to nearby predator-free Pigeon Island is similarly aimed at boosting the recovery of tieke and enhancing the ecosystem recovery of this iconic site,” he said.

Kim Hollows, Fiordland Conservation Trust chairman and heli pilot for projects, and Phillip Grubb, representative from the Fiordland Lobster Company, release tieke on Pigeon Island.
Photo: Laura Harry

The Fiordland Lobster Company previously funded stoat control on Pigeon Island, with the island sanctuary being declared predator free in 2007. Fiordland Lobster Company has 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 pleased with the result.

“Both projects have been generously funded by conservation stalwart Fiordland Lobster Company; while renowned New Zealand artist Gerda Leemens and Lucy Bellerby also assisted with funding the Five Fingers transfer, without whom, these projects would not have been possible.

“Hopefully, new tieke populations on both islands will be the result.”

A network of nearly 3000 traps keeps 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 tieke have recovered from a low of about 36 birds to nearly 3000 on predator-free islands, but population growth has stalled because of 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/piwauwau and southern Fiordland tokoeka/South Island brown kiwi. Other abundant birdlife present on the peninsula include mata/fernbird, South Island kaka, titipounamu/rifleman, pipipi/brown creeper, korimako/bellbird and tawaki/Fiordland crested penguin.

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