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BirdLife grant helps Endangered shorebird

Mana Island being re-populated with native species…

A grant from the BirdLife International Community Conservation Fund is helping establish a new population of Endangered Shore Plover Thinornis novaeseelandiae on Mana Island, off the west coast of Wellington, New Zealand.

The project is showing early signs of success. A pair from among 41 juveniles introduced to the island in 2007 hatched and fledged a chick during 2008, and five more young Shore Plovers have fledged in 2009. The first chick was born to one-year-old parents. Shore Plovers normally breed from two years.

The sole natural breeding population of Shore Plover is on Rangatira (South East) Island in the Chatham Islands. The species was once widespread around the coast of New Zealand’s South Island, but had been extirpated by the 1870s. Their global population is estimated to be less than 250 birds, with a total range of just 4 km2.

The Mana Island translocation is the latest in a series of releases of Shore Plover. Ten pairs are held in captivity, mainly at the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre in northern Wairarapa. Young birds produced by the captive flock are released on to predator-free islands as soon as they are old enough to fly.A local community NGO, the Friends of Mana Island (FOMI), is funding and providing volunteers for the five-year translocation project, which includes intensive monitoring of the newly introduced birds. The BLICCF grant, together with local support and the proceeds of an art auction held in London last year by the New Zealand Society and New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, has provided FOMI with sufficient funding to complete the project.

“It’s great for visitors to see one of the world’s rarest shorebirds as soon as they get off the boat,” said Colin Ryder - FOMI President and Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) regional committee member. “It’s hard to believe that they are only 30 to 40 minutes from downtown Wellington.”

FOMI was set up to assist the Department of Conservation in implementing the restoration plan for Mana Island. Mice have been eradicated from the island, which is now predator-free, over half a million native trees have been planted, a wetland restored, and threatened reptiles and invertebrates reintroduced. Forest & Bird has also been heavily involved in the island’s restoration, most importantly having initiated and resourced the mouse eradication project.The island is a scientific reserve, and Shore Plover joins other successful introductions of New Zealand’s endemic bird species that are rare on the mainland, including two more Endangered species - Takahe Porphyrio hochstetteri and Brown Teal Anas chlorotis.

“The BirdLife grants are supporting the recovery of a number of Globally Threatened bird species in New Zealand and elsewhere in the South Pacific”, said Mr Ryder. “FOMI is extremely grateful that our project on Mana Island was selected for funding and I can assure the donors that their contribution has made a real difference.”

4th July 2014