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Ark in the Park returns robins to the ranges

Ark in the Park returns robins to the ranges

After more than 100 years absence, robins have been returned to the Waitakere Ranges today.

Fifty three North Island robins (toutouwai) were transferred from Mokoia Island in Lake Rotorua to the Cascades Kauri Park by members of the Ark in the Park project, a partnership between the Waitakere Branch of Forest and Bird and the Auckland Regional Council.

“It’s absolutely thrilling to see the return of one of New Zealand’s most-loved forest birds”, said Ark in the Park spokesperson, John Sumich, “A missing part of Auckland’s wildlife has been returned.”

The Ark in the Park project is working to reduce introduced predators in an area of the Waitakere Ranges adjacent to the Waitakere Reservoir. The project has grown in two years from less than 300ha to 900ha of pest-controlled forest.

“This release of robins is just part of the ongoing ecosystem restoration we have planned, and we hope to put the missing pieces of this forest back in place”, said Mr. Sumich.

“Following the successful reintroduction and breeding of the whiteheads last year, we have high hopes for a new generation of Auckland-born robins this spring.”

In August last year, whiteheads were released as the first species to be reintroduced back to the Waitakeres. Young whiteheads were seen nearly five kilometres from the release site in another area of managed habitat, the la Trobe Restoration project.

It is expected that most of the birds will initially remain in the release area, due to the size and quality of the protected habitat.

“Our bush here is wonderful,” said Mr. Sumich, “There is a tremendous variety of plants and really decent mature forest. That should induce them to stay”.

“However, other releases in the Auckland area have found that small forest bird species can often move large distances,” said Mr Sumich. “We encourage residents in the Waitakere ranges and foothills to look out for special visitors over the next few years”.

Residents or visitors who do come across robins are encouraged to let the project know of their whereabouts, and to consider how they can help to protect these special birds from introduced predators (Ph. 817 9379).

“Introduced pests are the single biggest threat to native biodiversity”, said David Pattemore, Northern Conservation Officer for Forest and Bird. “We have a vision for Auckland to see our unique plants and animals thriving even in our densely populated urban areas”.

Forest and Bird’s ‘Auckland Naturally’ project encompasses the big picture of conservation throughout the region, and aims to assist in coordinating restoration efforts.

The Ark in the Park project is also an example of Forest and Bird’s national campaign to ‘Restore the Dawn Chorus”. Many similar projects around the country are also working to reduce predators in mainland forest areas so that native wildlife can thrive.

“It will take both strong governmental leadership and committed local action to protect our unique natural heritage for future generations,” said Mr. Pattemore.

Robins have been released in two sites around Auckland in the last five years, at Wenderholm Regional Park and in the Hunua Ranges, but this release is just 20 minutes from downtown Auckland, easily accessible for a family trip.

“We would love for the children of Auckland to be able to participate in this project and experience first-hand the beauty and diversity of our native plants and animals”, said Mr. Sumich.

Other initiatives underway include investigations into the feasibility of reintroducing a rare native butterfly known as the ‘Forest Ringlet’ and endangered mistletoes.

Local volunteers, as well as students from Germany, England and France will be helping to monitor the survival and progress of the robins over the coming months.


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