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Celebrating Whenua Hou: Predator Free For 25 Years!

One of New Zealand’s greatest conservation successes will be celebrated this month - as Whenua Hou Codfish Island marks being predator free for 25 years.

Perhaps best known as home to the Department of Conservation’s Kākāpō Recovery programme, the island’s role in biodiversity progress and saving our taonga species can’t be understated, says Whenua Hou Komiti member Shona Sangster.

“Whenua Hou’s status as a refuge for our taonga species has only been possible thanks to the vision and determination of many people who removed invaders from Whenua Hou in a series of eradications up to 1999.”

The Whenua Hou Komiti is planning a party on nearby Rakiura/Stewart Island to mark the quarter-century milestone which showcases the people, the place, and the taonga which have been protected thanks to the removal of possums and rats - to be held during Matariki on 28 and 29 June.

“The 25th anniversary is our chance to recognise Ngāi Tahu’s rangatiratanga of the motu, to celebrate the work of DOC and Aotearoa as a centre for excellence for island eradications and biosecurity, and to highlight the potential for what has been achieved on Whenua Hou being replicated here on Rakiura,” Ms Sangster said.

“We know that we nearly lost the kākāpō once, and it was only by securing Whenua Hou that we were able to save the species. Now, it’s time to turn our attention to making their ancestral home on Rakiura safe for them to return - while saving other precious manu which are on the brink, like the Pukunui - Southern New Zealand Dotterel.”

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While kākāpō certainly helped to put Whenua Hou ‘on the map’ (who could forget the BBC’s famous “shagged by a parrot” clip featuring Conservation Spokesbird Sirocco), it was the commitment and bravery of kiwi conservationists, volunteers, scientists and advocates which truly made it possible for the island to become the shining example of an island sanctuary it is today, Ms Sangster said.

“We want to make sure that we show our appreciation to the unsung heroes who have put the hard mahi into not only making Whenua Hou safe, but keeping it safe for the past 25 years.”

The celebrations begin with a dinner on Friday 28 June which will feature guest speakers and a preview of the discussion panels scheduled for the following day.

On Saturday 29 June, free activities include culture and heritage talks, a biodiversity panel, a kākāpō technology demonstration, and pop-up exhibition.

Anyone on Rakiura for the event will also have the chance to make banners with artist-in-residence Janet De Wagt all day on Saturday, visit a pop-up Whenua Hou exhibition at the Rakiura museum, meet Blake the taxidermied Kākāpō, and explore Whenua Hou through Google Earth Voyager mapping.

All activities will be in Oban, Rakiura. While there is a small cost to attend the dinner on Friday night, everything else is free-of-charge.

About Whenua Hou

Whenua Hou is located 3 km from the coast of Rakiura/Stewart Island. It has been predator free since 1998. As a nature reserve it has the highest protection available in New Zealand and entry can only be gained by permit with strict quarantine rules in place.

The first kākāpō were transferred to Codfish Island / Whenua Hou in 1987 from Rakiura in order to provide a safe haven for the birds. Following the eradication of possums and rats in 1998 and the transfer of weka to other islands, the island became a predator-free bird sanctuary and the focus of kākāpō recovery efforts.

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