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First time breeding of critically endangered seabird

The Chatham Islands Taiko Trust is pleased to announce that two eggs of the critically endangered Chatham Island taiko have hatched in the Sweetwater Conservation Covenant for the first time.

The Chatham Island taiko (magenta petrel) is found only in the Chatham Islands. Out of a population of possibly 150 birds there are only 12 known breeding pairs, making it one of the world’s rarest seabird species.

Sweetwater is a 2.4ha forest protected by an 800m predator-proof fence on private land owned by Bruce and Liz Tuanui. The Tuanuis covenanted this land for taiko conservation in 2004, and the predator proof fence was built in 2006 with funding from the Biodiversity Condition Fund and a Lotteries Board Grant. Between 2007 and 2011 all 57 known taiko chicks were transferred into the site and feed daily until fledging.

Taiko chicks take 3-5 years to return to their breeding colony, but do not breed until 5-7 years old. The Taiko Trust have been monitoring taiko in Sweetwater for the past three years, but this is the first breeding attempt.

Liz Tuanui, landowner and Chairperson of the Taiko Trust says “the hatching of these first two taiko eggs in Sweetwater is a major milestone for the conservation of this critically endangered species”

Not only have two pairs started breeding, but 70% of translocated chicks from the first two years of translocations have returned. This is significantly higher than the 30% recorded in the natural population. The breeding population in Sweetwater is expected to continue to increase over the coming five years.

“The number of birds being recorded in Sweetwater bodes well for the future, the predator free environment allows the birds to court, find partners and start breeding without the risk of predation. Our return rate indicates that preventing predation during the pre-breeding stage is critical” says Liz.

Taiko Trust monitoring has shown that pre-breeding taiko spend between 3-6 hours a night on the surface, calling and exploring the area as they look for burrows and partners. In an unprotected environment this would make them very vulnerable to predation.

END

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