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Good News For Campbell Island Teal

14 March 2006

GOOD NEWS FOR CAMPBELL ISLAND TEAL

The Department of Conservation team who have been on the Subantarctic Campbell Island for the last three weeks have come back to terra firma today in Invercargill with excellent news for some of our most enigmatic wildlife.

The team returning from Campbell Island today consisted of six people and two specially trained dogs who have spent the last three weeks searching the remote island for teal.

The team are thrilled with the discovery that the endangered native teal that were released onto Campbell Island over the 2004 and 2005 summers have bred. During their three weeks on the remote Campbell Island, the team found five different ages of ducklings, which is a promising sign for this rare native bird.

“As well as finding ducklings, the team discovered nesting remains and unbanded adult ducks, which are last year’s ducklings,” said Pete McCleland, Programme Manager for the Subantarctic Islands.

“Finding evidence of breeding so soon after returning these ducks to their natural habitat of Campbell Island is excellent news, and it shows a fantastic response to the rat eradication,” he said.

In 2001 the Department of Conservation carried out the world's largest rodent eradication on the 22, 000 hectare Campbell Island, and removed the last introduced predator from the island.

Because of predation by rats and other predators, the tiny flightless Campbell Island teal had gone extinct on the main island. Twenty years ago, eleven Campbell Island teal were brought back to New Zealand for breeding as a captive population and this allowed the reintroduction of the Campbell Island teal back to their natural habitat with 50 being released on Campbell Island in 2004 and another 55 in 2005.

The team also found other exciting signs of the native wildlife readjusting to life without predators, with the discovery of a Campbell Snipe at Perseverance Harbour approx 3km from the closet previous record, and a grey-backed storm petrel chick. Snipe were only discovered in 1997 on the nearby Jaquemart Island, and in 2005 two birds were found on the main island for the first time. The distance that the snipe was found from the earlier site of this latest discovery means that the returning population of snipe may be much larger than anticipated.

“The snipe’s return to its natural stomping ground of Campbell Island in the absence of introduced predators such as rats, is a very good indicator of the importance of the rodent removal, and how quickly native wildlife can adjust without predators wrecking their survival chances,” said Mr McClelland.

The storm petrel chick was found in its burrow by one of the dogs and it is the first record of this species breeding on the island. It is hoped that it will be followed by many other examples of this and a range of other seabird species that were wiped out by the rats. The Department of Conservation is thrilled with the initial benefits that removing rats has had on the whole island, and is looking forward to future positive impacts.

“All of this along with the amazing regeneration of the plants and a huge increase in the insect numbers has been made possible by the removal of the introduced animals. We look forward to seeing what else will happen over the coming years.”

ENDS

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