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Bye-bye birdie for one Sanctuary resident

28 September 2006

It’s bye-bye birdie for one Sanctuary resident

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A male hihi is transferred to a box for transporting from Karori Wildlife Sanctuary to Pukaha Mt Bruce.

Until now, it has been one-way traffic as far as rare species transfers at Wellington’s world-first Karori Wildlife Sanctuary are concerned. But all that is about to change as the award-winning eco-restoration project prepares to transfer one of its rarest inhabitants out of the Sanctuary for the first time in its 11-year history.

Today a male hihi (stitchbird) left the Sanctuary to be part of the Department of Conservation’s hihi breeding programme at Pukaha Mt Bruce (the National Wildlife Centre near Masterton).

Hundreds of rare native birds and reptiles have been released at the Sanctuary since its groundbreaking predator-proof fence was completed in 1999. For some, like the tuatara and little spotted kiwi, this was the first time they had been back in the wild on the New Zealand mainland.

Hihi, too, had been extinct on the mainland for at least 120 years, before 64 were reintroduced to the Sanctuary in 2005. Despite being highly susceptible to stress and disease, the hihi settled in the Sanctuary extremely well. Their first breeding season produced over 89 fledglings; a breeding rate that surpassed breeding rates on their offshore island homes

“Of the 64 hihi transferred to the Sanctuary, ten were juveniles from Pukaha Mt Bruce. The survival of these captive-bred birds at the Sanctuary exceeded expectations and it is satisfying that we are now in the position of being able to reciprocate with the transfer of this hihi male to Mt Bruce so soon”, says Karori Wildlife Sanctuary conservation scientist Raewyn Empson.

“We rely mainly on offshore islands to provide the wildlife that we reintroduce to the Sanctuary. We are delighted that the Sanctuary has reached the stage where we can start to transfer our wildlife to other sites. This demonstrates that Karori Wildlife Sanctuary is increasingly playing a significant role in Department of Conservation’s species recovery programmes”.


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