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Chatham petrel chicks returned to Chatham Island

Chatham petrel chicks returned to Chatham Island

Adult Chatham
petrel chick in artificial burrow
Click to enlarge

Adult Chatham petrel chick in artificial burrow, Rangatira (South East Island). Photographer: Dale Williams, Department of Conservation.

Karakia for Chatham
petrel chicks, Norman Kirk Memorial Reserve, Chatham
Click to enlarge

Karakia for Chatham petrel chicks, Norman Kirk Memorial Reserve, Chatham Island.
Caption: From Left: Nick Preece (Hokotehi Moriori), Lois Croon (Chatham Island Conservation Board), Ron Seymour, Ollie Seymour (Ngati Mutunga O Wharekauri).
Photographer: Dale Williams, Department of Conservation.

23 April 2008

Chatham petrel chicks returned to Chatham Island

Chatham Islanders this week celebrated the first return of an endangered bird species to the main Chatham Island.

Forty-three nationally endangered Chatham petrel chicks have been moved from their former home on Rangatira (South East Island), to artificial burrows within the predator free Sweetwater Conservation Covenant, in the south of the main Chatham Island.

“It’s a privilege to be involved in this joint project along with the Taiko Trust and the Chatham Island community, says Department of Conservation spokesperson Dale Williams.

Chatham petrels formerly bred in the forested areas of Pitt Island, Mangere, Rangatira and Chatham Island. But due largely to the impacts of predation by kiore (Pacific rat) and cats, they have been absent from all those sites except Rangatira for the last 100 years.

Between 2002 and 2004, Chatham petrel chicks were transferred from Rangatira Island into the predator-fenced section of the Ellen Elizabeth Preece Conservation Covenant on Pitt Island. Already, seven pairs of petrels have returned there to breed. The transfer of Chatham petrel to Sweetwater follows on from this success.

The transfer to Sweetwater has been made possible by the landowners, Liz and Bruce Tuanui, and the Taiko Trust, who have predator-proof fenced the two and a half hectares with the aim of restoring seabirds to the site. This includes the critically endangered Chatham Island taiko species which were successfully transferred there for the first time in 2007

“It’s an exciting time for the trust and its volunteers to have the chicks back home, “says trust chairperson Liz Tuanui.

“It opens up wonderful opportunities for the children of the Chathams to follow through from their participation last year in building some of the burrow boxes. It now means they can follow the progress of a chick until it comes back as a breeding adult. You can’t get better than that.”

Antje Leseberg, the DOC ranger responsible for selecting the petrel chicks for the transfer, said the wing length and weight of all the chicks was recorded leading up to the transfer day and only those that fell within strict size criteria were moved to Sweetwater. The other chicks were left to fledge on Rangatira.

The chicks were gathered from their burrows during the early hours of Monday morning (21 April), placed in cardboard boxes, transported by fishing boat, and then taken by road to the Sweetwater Conservation Covenant.

Eight chicks had a brief stopover for a ceremony where local iwi and the Chatham Islands Mayor were joined by the community to honour the birds’ return and wish them a safe passage on to Sweetwater.

The Taiko Trust and DOC will invite the children to visit in the next few weeks to watch the chicks being fed by expert contractor, Helen Gummer, specialist volunteers, and DOC staff, until they are ready to fledge in approximately three weeks time. The birds will remain at sea for 2-4 years before returning to the site to eventually breed. ENDS


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