Rare pateke begin new life in Fiordland

Pateke ducklings. Photo: Supplied

A NEW home has been found for 60 native ducks in Fiordland in an attempt to boost the native species’ population.

The Milford Track’s resident pateke, brown teal, have been given a boost, bringing New Zealand one step closer to a new self-sustaining pateke population.

Last Thursday, 60 of these small but feisty native ducks were flown, courtesy of Air New Zealand, from The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust’s Peacock Springs in Christchurch, to Queenstown, to start their new life in the heart of Fiordland.

Department of Conservation (Doc) senior ranger Andrew (Max) Smart said the translocation was the latest in a long programme of work which aimed to re-establish new wild populations.

“Pateke were once the most common waterfowl in New Zealand,” he said.

“Now, they’re rarest, equal along with whio.

“To turn this around, Doc works with a national captive rearing programme which draws on support from 14 captive breeders around the country to boost their numbers back to sustainable levels.

Fiordland’s Arthur Valley is one of two sites in the South Island where this type of work could be attempted, he said.

“Thanks to consistent and landscape-scale predator control, including an extensive trapping network and targeted use of 1080, we’re able to keep predator numbers in check which gives pateke – and many other native species – the chance to fourish.”

Eventually, the valley could hold up to 500 pateke.

The Arthur Valley was not without its challenges, however, with flood events hampering the species’ numbers, Mr Smart said.

Overall, reintroductions across the country are going well and the species is now classified as “recovering”.

Air New Zealand’s head of sustainability Meagan Schloeffel said the airline was proud to transport pateke to Fiordland and fund predator traps and radio transmitters for the native birds, along with the wider work Air New Zealand does in partnership with Doc.

“It’s a real privilege to support Doc do this incredibly important work to help our native bird numbers and we’re delighted to take the pateke to their new home.

“Our laongstanding partnership with Doc has seen us transport 1409 pateke over the last 10 years. It’s a special programme to be part of and one closely aligned with Doc and Air New Zealand’s joint vision of New Zealand as a place where our natural environment is thriving.”

The work was undertaken with support from Ngai Tahu through the involvement of Oraka Aparima runaka.

Before pateke could be released in the wild, crucial conditioning takes place at Peacock Springs in Christchurch, run by The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust.