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Saddleback returned to Motuihe Island

11 August 2005

Saddleback returned to Motuihe Island

The release of 20 saddlebacks or tieke on Motuihe Island today marks the return of this vocal forest bird to the inner Hauraki Gulf after an absence of 100 years.

The transfer of ten male and ten female birds from Tiritiri Matangi by the Motuihe Trust is the first native species to be re-introduced to this popular pest-free island.

Motuihe Trust chairman John Laurence said the return of North Island saddleback showed the island’s potential as a wildlife sanctuary. “Now just 15 kilometres from downtown Auckland, people will be able to see and hear birds that disappeared from the mainland about a century ago.”

Release of the rare wattlebird was the result of months of planning and support from the Department of Conservation, Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi, iwi, sponsors and community volunteers, Mr Laurence said. “It’s really been a team effort. With this sort of support Motuihe will soon be transformed into an island with forest-lined beaches and the sounds of native birds all around.”

DOC acting Auckland Conservator Warwick Murray said the Motuihe Trust was making great progress in restoring the island in partnership with the department. “Six months ago they launched their restoration plan and today they have brought back saddleback. It’s an example of what can be achieved by the community on public conservation land for the benefit of everyone.”

The saddleback transfer was sponsored by Mobil. Mobil Oil New Zealand Country Manager Mark Malpass said the company was proud to be involved. “Aucklanders will be able to get close to a beautiful bird species that was once common throughout the region. Mobil is pleased to be making such a tangible contribution to enhancing our environment and the quality of life of Aucklanders.”

Saddlebacks used to be found throughout New Zealand but predation by rats, cats and stoats saw them gone from much of the country by 1900. By the 1960s there was a single remaining population of the North Island sub-species on Hen Island, in the northern Hauraki Gulf, which was successfully transferred to neighbouring Whatapuke Island in 1964.

North Island saddleback now occupy 12 predator free islands, as well as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington, and have a much more secure future. Saddlebacks were released on Tiritiri Matangi in 1984 and now number more than 400 there.

The plan to restore Motuihe (179 hectares) includes re-planting large areas, returning native birds, lizards and insects, conserving historic features, enhancing wetland areas and developing tracks and other visitor facilities. Since 2003, volunteers have grown and planted about 50,000 trees on the island.


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