Ocean Beach visit highlights plight of rare shore plover
Hawke's Bay App
Tuesday, September 03, 2019 3:48 AM
The shore plover or tūturuatu is one of the world’s rarest shorebirds and is endemic to New Zealand.
These coastal birds are very susceptible to predators- rats, feral cats and stoats. Tūturuatu face the very real threat of extinction. The support of captive breeding programmes, alongside intensive predator control at breeding sites, is needed to help the tūturuatu survive into the future.
A recent visit by the East Coast Hawke’s Bay Conservation Board, Te Tairāwhiti ki Te Matau-a- Māui, to the Kotahi Shore Plover/tūturuatu aviary and the Cape Sanctuary at Ocean Beach highlighted the plight of the tūturuatu and efforts to stop this species from becoming extinct.
The Kotahi Shore Plover/tūturuatu aviary is a joint initiative between the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Cape Sanctuary.
“The survival of Shore Plover relies on island biosecurity, captive breeding, and translocations to predator-free islands, “ explained local DOC Biodiversity Ranger Kelly Eaton who was keen for the Board to learn about the precarious existence of this special bird and recognise the efforts of the Kotahi and Cape Sanctuary partners in supporting this species recovery.
Shore plover are particularly susceptible to predation. One rat on a predator free island could decimate a population. With only around 250 birds remaining in the world, captive breeding efforts are essential to support this bird’s survival. Two other facilities have been undertaking this work nationally. The Kotahi Aviary, which opened in early 2018, builds on their efforts.
DOC oversees captive breeding and translocations at a national level. The recovery plan for Shore plover has been underway for nearly 20 years. The birds at Kotahi Aviary came from breeding programmes at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre (near Masterton), and the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust in Christchurch. Originally, these birds came from the last known population in the Chatham Islands. The aim of the breeding programme is for captive-reared juveniles to be released onto predator-free islands.
Conservation Board Chair Jo Blakeley is enthusiastic about the initiative at Kotahi aviary.
“It fills us with hope for this species when we see such united and substantive efforts to protect it. It is very important to work together if we are going to achieve increased levels of protection for New Zealand’s lesser known endangered species. This is a showcase conservation initiative for Hawke’s Bay,” Blakeley said.
Rebecca (Bex) Diederichsen manages the Kotahi Aviary. Her position is jointly funded by DOC and the Kotahi/Cape Sanctuary partnership. Bex proudly hosted the Board around her “second home” at the aviary.
“There’s such a limited gene pool that the breeding between tūturuatu pairs is closely guided by experts”, Bex says. Bex is currently getting everything organised for the beginning of what will hopefully be their first successful breeding season. The brooder house will allow for the incubation and hatching of several clutches (two to four eggs per clutch) per breeding pair. Bex has been busy practising with quail egg incubation for now, but in a few months her skills will be put to the test as the programme gets ready for spring hatchings.”
The Kotahi aviary conservation partnership is just one example of many operating through New Zealand. Conservation focused landowners, philanthropists, businesses, and community volunteers all contribute to partnerships across the country.
The Kotahi aviary is part of a wider and long-term conservation initiative at the Cape Sanctuary, New Zealand’s largest privately owned “mainland island”. It was started by landowners passionate about bringing back and sustaining native species that once would have existed on the Cape Kidnappers peninsula and nearby coastal communities.