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Robins the first birds to be transferred


MEDIA RELEASE &
PHOTO CALL
16 August 2007

Photocall:

9.30am Karori Sanctuary Visitor Centre

Saturday 18 August – and transfer to central point

Outward bound: North Island robins the first birds to be transferred out of Karori Sanctuary

Until now wildlife has arrived at Karori Sanctuary on a one-way ticket. But seven years after the first birds were released at the Sanctuary, bird numbers are booming and the Sanctuary is about to make its first outbound transfer - taking ten of its North Island robins to supplement the small population on Matiu/Somes Island.

For the past seven years, staff and volunteers at Wellington’s world-first urban wildlife sanctuary have been hard at work recreating an ecosystem that would be more familiar to the first European settlers than to a contemporary New Zealander.

A key part of this epic vision was restocking the 225ha valley with native animals that had long-vanished from the Wellington landscape. The amiable North Island robin was one such bird. Absent from the Wellington region for many years, 76 birds were transferred from Kapiti Island into the Sanctuary in 2001 and 2002. Quickly establishing a breeding population, it is estimated that there are now in excess of 100 birds living throughout the Sanctuary.

‘Robins are one of the most inquisitive birds you will encounter in the bush’ says Sanctuary volunteer Faye Shaef, who has been involved in monitoring the birds for many years.

‘They will quite often come right up to you to investigate whether your shoelaces are really tasty worms, and hang around in anticipation of the insects thrown up in your wake. Unfortunately, it is this appealing characteristic that makes robins particularly susceptible to predation by cats and it is unlikely that they will ever successfully re-establish themselves in an urban environment, outside of the protection offered by sanctuaries.’

Confident that their population is stable, it is now the Sanctuary’s turn to provide birds for transfer – a significant step forward in their 500-year journey.

‘This transfer marks a major milestone for the Sanctuary’ says conservation scientist Raewyn Empson.

‘It is the first time we have been able to support another local restoration project by supplying birds for release. We have a particularly close connection with Matiu/Somes because that’s where our giant weta came from in February. It’s nice to bring things full circle by releasing Sanctuary-bred animals onto the island.’

Up to ten birds will be taken over for release on 19 August, with the balance due for release in early September. They will join Matiu’s existing population of about nine birds, all of which came from Kapiti Island in 2006.

‘We’re hoping they will bolster the numbers on Matiu/Somes Island enough to establish a self-sustaining population,’ Department of Conservation Biodiversity Ranger Brent Tandy said.

‘While the initial transfer of robins to the island was very successful, numbers dropped during autumn. We’re not sure what caused this, so we’ll be intensively monitoring the new arrivals to see if we can shed some light on the matter.’

The transfer should have no detrimental effect on the Sanctuary’s robin population, or visitors’ chances of seeing this quirky bird. In fact, when the robins’ breeding season begins in September, the territories vacated by transferred birds will become prime ‘robin real estate’, there for the taking by new birds.

ENDS

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