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New Zealand birdlife under threat

Tuesday 6 December 2005

New Zealand birdlife under threat

More work needs to be done to protect threatened bird species in New Zealand, new research says.

An overview of the state of New Zealand native birds says that while seriously endangered bird species are being successfully managed, there are many less-endangered species that are not being managed and are in severe decline.

Compiler of the State of New Zealand's Birds 2005 and a senior lecturer at Lincoln University, Kerry-Jayne Wilson, said today that the Conservation Department had been very successful at saving critically endangered species from extinction with, arguably, a better record of success than any other agency any where in the world.

"Almost all bird species that are being actively managed are increasing, albeit slowly in the case of very difficult species such as the Taiko and Kakapo."

However, she said, there were a number of species that were in decline or under threat that were in dire need of assistance. These included the Chatham Shag, Blue Duck, Weka, New Zealand dotterel, Mohua (Yellowhead) and Hihi (Stitchbird).

"More needs to be done by non-governmental organizations and universities to complement the work being done by DoC. Almost all of our land birds and almost half of New Zealand's seabirds breed only in New Zealand - if we don't save these species, no one else can."

The overview document, "The State of New Zealand's Birds 2005", seeks to identify those species in decline but not subject to active management and those for which there is insufficient knowledge to assess their true status. It will be launched at the opening reception of the 3rd Australasian Ornithological Conference in Blenheim on Tuesday, 6 December 2005. The conference is being hosted by the Ornithological Society of New Zealand, the pre-eminent non-governmental organisation for the study of birds in New Zealand.

Ms Wilson said the research showed the number of seabirds that were under threat is increasing while the number of people with expertise on seabirds (both within and outside of DoC) was in decline.

"The current status for most species of seabirds is at best poorly known and the true situation for seabirds, in particular petrels is probably worse than this report indicates."

She said many species that were restricted to the mainland were in decline but, for some species there was insufficient evidence to verify this. These species include most parrots and kiwi, Wrybill, Black-fronted Tern and the robins.

On the mainland, the major threat to native birds was introduced mammal predators such as rats, stoats, possums, and cats.

"Bird conservation on the mainland depends on the annual application of poisons such as 1080. These strategies are successful in that they allow the populations of native birds to increase but there is increasing resistance to the use of these poisons. There is an urgent need for alternative means for controlling mammal predators."

Ms Wilson said predator fences that can exclude all mammals including rats offered an alternative solution.

"The first such fence was erected in 1999 and encloses the 250 ha Karori Sanctuary in Wellington. Currently under construction is a 45 km long fence that will encircle 3400 ha of native forest on Maungatautari Mountain in the Waikato."


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