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Campbell Island Teal conservation efforts

13 January 2005

Zoo incubators aid Campbell Island Teal conservation efforts

A Campbell Island Teal duckling has been born at Wellington Zoo, aiding recovery efforts for one of the world’s rarest ducks.

It was previously thought the small flightless, nocturnal birds were extinct until a tiny population was discovered in the mid-1970s on Dent Island – a small islet off the Campbell Island coast.

The Department of Conservation established a captive breeding colony at the Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre in 1984 but it took 10 years before the birds finally bred in captivity.

DoC released 24 captive-bred birds on to Codfish Island in 1999/2000 and these have subsequently established and bred well. At the same time, DoC carried out a rat eradication programme on Campbell Island, paving the way for the return of 50 teals to their former homeland in September last year.

However, there are still currently less than 100 Campbell Island teal ducks in captivity and the wild and Wellington Zoo is lucky to have one of the few captive breeding pairs outside of Mt Bruce.

The pair have recently bred for the first time, laying a clutch of five eggs.

Bird Curator Geert Van Eyken says only two ducklings were hatched and only one of those survived. Born on 29 November, the new duckling was yesterday released for public display.

The duckling was hatched and hand-raised using one of three new incubators bought with a $10,000 grant from the Pelorus Trust last year.

Geert says the Grumbach incubators from Germany have greatly improved the Zoo’s ability to incubate eggs and hand-raise chicks. “We use the incubators for a number of things – obviously to incubate eggs but also as hatchers when the chicks come out of the eggs, and as brooders where we hand raise the chicks.

“Without them, we wouldn’t have had the success we have been having with our bird breeding and conservation programmes.”

When the Teal duckling is grown, the DoC Recovery Programme Coordinator will decide if it will be paired with a captive Teal for breeding purposes or released back on to Campbell Island.

And in the meantime, there may be more new Teals on the way at the Zoo as the female Teal recently laid her second clutch of eggs and is currently sitting on three, which are due to hatch by the end of this month.

“We are excited to be able to contribute to DoC’s recovery programme for the Teals,” says Geert. “Breeding them in captivity isn’t easy as they are very shy ducks, so we are delighted to have been able to achieve a live birth.”

Geert says the Zoo has had success hatching and hand-rearing other chicks in the new incubators including Banded Rails, Golden Pheasants, Lady Amherst’s Pheasants, Monal Pheasants, Maroon-bellied Conures and Kakariki chicks.

He says the Zoo Trust will shortly apply for further grant funding to buy more incubators to allow the Zoo to continue to enhance its bird breeding programmes.


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