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Success For Rare Seabird Chicks

31 May 2002
Success For Rare Seabird Chicks Repays "Dedicated Work" By DOC Staff

All seven of the Chatham Islands' record crop of rare taiko chicks have fledged, Conservation Minister Sandra Lee announced today as she thanked DOC staff for their "dedicated work" to bring the species back from near-extinction.

Ms Lee said the last of the chicks has now left their Chatham Islands breeding ground after they were all banded, bled for a DNA relationship study, and fitted with small transmitters so their initial flight out to sea could be monitored. The seabirds only return to land to breed in burrows.

"Because some estimates of the world population of the taiko, or magenta petrel, are as low as 100 birds, all seven of this year's breeding season chicks have been given intensive care," Ms Lee said.

"DOC staff endured nights in the open and long treks. For the first time, they fed the chicks regularly to ensure they reached the required fledging weight. The staff took turns to sleep outside a burrow for six chilly nights to feed one chick when it emerged," Ms Lee said. "Three chicks had to be carried to the coast to be released when they had difficulty attempting to fly from their burrows."

Programme manager Mike Ogle said from the Chathams that the "huge" effort to protect the birds included five months of rodent control covering more than 20 hectares, and walking between 10-16km a day to check trap lines over nine months. He said trapping predators had been a major task with 160 wild cats removed from the breeding area during the last two years.

Mr Ogle said the prospects for the future of the taiko had grown dramatically over the past three years, with a four-fold increase in breeding burrows discovered—from two to eight. Trained dogs and radio telemetry were used to help protect the burrows from predators that included rats, wild cats, pigs, possums and weka.

"It was a fantastic sight seeing these cuddly little chicks who have come out of holes in the ground undergo this amazing transformation and fly confidently off into the sunset," he said. "You don't realise how big their wing span is until you see them fly."

Ends

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