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Saddleback Return To Mainland In Wellington

16 June 2002

Forty North Island saddleback were transported by plane from Auckland to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary last night returning the species back to the mainland for the first time in 100 years.

Twenty of the birds were released today in the Contact Energy Wilderness Trail. The remainder will be released over the next few weeks.

North Island saddleback have distinctive orange/red wattles at the base of the bill and a bright chestnut saddle over the back and rump.

Environment Minister Marian Hobbs led a brief ceremony that included karakia before the official release of the first twenty saddleback.

“This saddleback release is a significant step in improving Wellington’s biodiversity and all Wellingtonians should be proud of this achievement,” Marian Hobbs said.

Department of Conservation Director General Hugh Logan said the transfer of the birds from Tiritiri Matangi was an important milestone in the conservation of North Island saddleback and also for community-owned conservation at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary.

“Saddleback are a highly endangered species and the fact that they can be relocated to 250 hectares in the middle of Wellington City is a tribute to 10 years of hard work by volunteers, families, staff, local councils, charitable trusts, and companies,” Mr Logan said.

Karori Wildlife Sanctuary Trust Chairman, Richard Bentley said the saddleback were an exciting addition to the growing flora and fauna of the Sanctuary.

“Saddleback will join the thriving populations of tui, little spotted kiwi, weka, brown teal, North Island robin, whitehead, and tomtits. It is quickly becoming a remarkable restoration achievement,” Mr Bentley said.

“We recognise the support of Ngati Paoa, Kawerau a Maki, the Auckland Ornithological Society, Department of Conservation staff and Friends of Tiritiri Matangi in Auckland for making the transfer of birds possible.

“Likewise in Wellington we are pleased to have had the support of Te Ati Awa and Ngati Toa as well as our members who have funded this release through donations and gifts, and Contact Energy for their support of the Wilderness Trail, where the birds are being released.”

Karori Wildlife Sanctuary Conservation Manager, Raewyn Empson oversaw the translocation of the saddleback to Wellington.

Some of the saddleback have small transmitters attached to their tails so their survival and dispersal can be monitored after release. If members of the public spot a saddleback outside the Sanctuary please contact the Sanctuary and let them know where and when you saw it and if possible the combination of coloured bands on its legs – phone 04 920 9202 or email bird.watchers@sanctuary.org.nz.

Ends

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