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Liam Butler interviews co-author of Paradise Saved

Liam Butler interviews David Butler co-author of Paradise Saved: The Remarkable Story of New Zealand's Wildlife Sanctuaries and How They Are Stemming the Tide of Extinction.

06 January 2015

Liam Butler

Question One

Paradise Saved tells the story of 135 of the more that 1000 wildlife sanctuaries in New Zealand. Older people make up an important part of the volunteer workforce at these sanctuaries. What do you think makes the work at these sanctuaries so appealing to older people?

I think firstly, many older people remember a time when there was more native wildlife in our forests and wetlands and want to do what they can to bring this back. They have time, energy and good health, and enjoy exercise with a purpose. The camaraderie around the projects maybe also replaces the sense of being one of team that they enjoyed in their working lives. They can also make a real difference and see this happening - today.

Native Forest Restoration Trust members plant a tree at the opening of the Tui Glen Reserve near Te Kuiti. New Zealand Native Forests Restoration Trust.

Question Two

Sanctuaries have provided a perfect environment for people of all ages to learn about how we can stem the tide of extinction of New Zealand's wild life. How have you seen them increase a communities understanding of environmentalism?

I am not sure if sanctuaries have increased environmentalism or environmentalism has encouraged more people to become involved in sanctuaries. But I think there's no doubt that the practical education programmes going on in sanctuaries will produce a new generation of conservation activists and they are likely to become involved on their doorsteps, in towns and cities making conditions favourable to share these with the wildlife that will spread from sanctuaries - as we can see in Wellington.

Question Three

The protection of Kiwi in New Zealand has been the focal point for many wildlife protection efforts in Aotearoa. What are some of success stories from santuaries that are not so well known to the general public?

You are right that a good number of projects are successfully protecting kiwi, largely requiring the control of stoats, ferrets and dogs. I think that the book reveals a huge number of species being cared for, and re-introduced to their former range, from leaf-veined slugs on Otamahua/Quail Island in Lyttelton Harbour to kokako at Ark in the Park in the Waitakere Ranges. The greatest successes are still being achieved on islands or pest-proof fenced sanctuaries on the mainland where numbers of key pests can be kept to zero. I think the most exciting development are the bringing back of the seabirds to more and more of these - visiting a colony of night to experience the ‘rain' of birds returning to their nesting burrows is a magical experience that all New Zealanders should have. We hope that the reader will be surprised at the large number of projects of which only a few are generally known. All have their achievements - and challenges - and there are many opportunities to become involved.

Question Four

Trounson Kauri Park 40km north of Dargaville has an wheelchair accessible path. What other sanctuaries are readily accessible for people who use wheelchairs to enjoy?

I think that many of the larger sanctuaries that have the resources to put into visitor facilities will be aiming for such paths, but readers would need to contact the different projects to find out what is available. Here at the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary in Nelson where we are at the pest-proof fence-building stage we have a wheelchair loop track under development.


The gripping, inspirational story of the New Zealand sanctuaries and conservationists turning back the tide of extinction.

We've all heard of Tiritiri Matangi and we all know about the Karori wildlife sanctuary. Since they were established, over 100 more wildlife sanctuaries have sprung up, all round New Zealand, where control of predators has meant that endangered native birds can breed safely. Many now have such abundant birdlife that the stock is harvested every year for release in other sanctuaries to build up their populations. The some 135 sanctuaries include those at Maungatautari near Te Awamutu, Ark in the Park in the Waitakeres, Little Barrier, Tawharanui near Leigh, Purakanui near Dunedin, in Nelson and on the Barrier.

And new ones will continue to emerge now scientists have worked out the most effective way to bait and trap to keep possums, rats and stoats etc out. Some are fenced and others keep predators under control or out totally by regular baiting round the perimeter. Around the country thousands of New Zealanders volunteer to support and run them. They are helping turn the tide of extinction and are a successful attempt to protect native birds and also to reintroduce them to areas where they had been extinct. This inspirational book tells their story.

David Butler is a highly respected New Zealand scientist, biodiversity consultant, and author, who has a strong background in species conservation and forest restoration. He has written several books, including The Black Robin: Saving the worlds' most endangered bird, which he co-wrote with legendary conservationist Don Merton, and Quest for the Kakapo. Butler was instrumental in setting up the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary Trust and is its current Chair. His conservation work extends throughout New Zealand, to the Pacific Islands, particularly Samoa, and the Indian Ocean.


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