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Scientific Expert To Advise Biodiversity At Pūkaha

Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre is pleased to announce the appointment of Christine Reed to the position of Biodiversity Manager. The new role will look to provide a greater understanding of the biodiversity value at Pūkaha with a view to how that supports wider conservation initiatives within the Wairarapa and Tararua regions. It will see Pūhaka play a greater role in initiatives that are of national importance. This shift will have long-term benefits for Pūkaha, other sanctuaries and conservation projects throughout New Zealand.

Emily Court, General Manager, said “Pūkaha is hugely honoured to have someone of Christine’s calibre and standing in the scientific community come and work with us. Her appointment will enable some significant decisions for both our wild populations and our well-established captive breeding programmes. She will also play an important role in ‘big picture’ conservation and the implementation of initiatives at the national level which is strategically important to us as the National Wildlife Centre”.

Ms Reed brings a wealth of expertise and experience to the role. It’s also a welcome return to the wildlife centre which helped to kickstart her interest in working with threatened species.

Seeing Takahē at Pūkaha on a visit in the 1980’s whilst studying for a Zoology degree gave Reed inspiration to study Pūkaha’s critically endangered kakī (black stilt) for her Masters degree. Her passion for the species led to her joining the New Zealand Wildlife Service in 1987 four months before it would become the Department of Conservation (DOC) and establish kakī breeding and release facilities in the Mackenzie Basin. These facilities and the viewing platforms she created for scientific and visitor observation are still in use to this day and are now the main breeding site for the species. Under Reed’s guidance, kakī numbers of around 30 were able to increase and the species has stepped back from the brink of extinction. Today there are around 170 birds, with much of the credit acknowledged to Ms Reed and her team.

Reed would go on to become the lead person supporting captive co-ordinators throughout New Zealand which built on her experiences with kakī. On reflection Reed said “It wasn’t enough to just keep wildlife alive. I needed to learn about wildlife health”. It led to her working with wildlife veterinarians at Massey University to develop wildlife health and disease screening guidelines then implement them at a national level with DOC.

She went on to become a Conservancy Advisory Scientist with DOC involving herself in all scientific aspects of conservancy including the control of wild animals, threatened plant conservation, restoration and historic site preservation.

In 1999 Reed continued to work for DOC in their Threatened Species Unit supporting recovery programmes for birds, reptiles, invertebrates and bats. There she worked with the Wildlife Society of the New Zealand Veterinary Association to establish the national database that holds pathology and disease screening information for all of Aotearoa’s native species.

In 2001 Reed moved to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) to assess all biosecurity risk to biodiversity through a team that she set up. She soon took on the management of the wider Biosecurity Science and Risk Assessment Group for MAF (now called the Ministry for Primary Industries) and spent nineteen years with that organisation.

Conservation is at the forefront of her decision to move back to Pūkaha. “It’s where my passion is, especially around native birds”, said Ms Reed. “Pūkaha also has a big part to play in helping to educate and change our behaviour in ways that contribute to conservation. It’s wonderful for me to come back to where it all began and feel like I can help to make a difference for threatened species, the community, the environment, and people both at a local and national level. I’m really pleased to be back here”.

Christine Reed started her new role as Biodiversity Manager in January 2021.

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