What do you get if you cross 100 intrepid seabirds, a 1,131-kilometre flight, sardine smoothies and a huge amount of volunteer support? A highly ambitious translocation of kōrure/mottled petrel chicks from Whenua Hou/Codfish Island to the Maungaharuru Range.
Kia ora, my name is Kelly Eaton and I’m a Department of Conservation Biodiversity Ranger from Hawke’s Bay. I’ve just embarked on the final planned translocation of kōrure as part of the Poutiri Ao ō Tāne project.
Poutiri Ao ō Tāne is a unique collaborative ecological and social restoration project located on the Maungaharuru Range, 60 kilometres north of Napier.
The project plans to restore the cloak of Papa-tū-ā-nuku (Earth Mother) – and return native species that have been lost to the area over time. The goal is to see these species flourish, not only in the habitats we expect them to be in like native bush, but also within the agriculture and forestry landscape.
Bringing biodiversity back to the Maungaharuru Range
Right now, I’m part of a dedicated team who are attempting to translocate up to 100 kōrure/mottled petrel chicks from Whenua Hou/Codfish Island and add them to the 269 chicks that have already been brought to Maungaharuru in the previous four translocations.
So how does this current translocation fit into all of this? We are aiming to re-establish a population of kōrure on the Maungaharuru Range.
A long time ago, millions of these birds covered the Range. In fact, there were so many that when they took off the maunga seemed to come to life – in part giving this Range its name “the mountain that rumbles and roars”. As a side note, it was not only the kōrure that contributed to this local biodiversity – the tītī/Cook’s petrels and black petrels also played a part.
We started translocation programmes of kōrure and tītī about five years ago. They are translocated as chicks and once fledged they go out to sea until they return to breed. This typically takes 4-5 years.
In January 2018, a couple of adult birds did return. This was so exciting because Maungaharuru is the most inland site (23 kilometres inland) that we’ve ever attempted to translocate to. The birds return is hugely significant for the project, for iwi and for conservation worldwide! This paves the way for similar translocations across New Zealand.
We hope these are only the first of many transferred chicks to come back.
I am particularly excited about this translocation because earlier this year I was able to confirm the return of the kōrure and one of our tītī to the site. In an effort to confirm they were our birds, I spent the night before Waitiangi Day sleeping in the feed shed, waking every hour to walk around the burrows checking for birds, (motion-activated cameras had already told me a tītī was a regular visitor) but we needed to see its leg band to know who it was.
Then at 1 AM Waitangi Day I found a tītī in burrow 35, this one had been translocated 4 years before. After checking with the Maungaharuru Tangitū kaumatua Trevor Taurima, we named it Waitangi.
Stay tuned for our next post – Operation Whenua Hou, which will involve helicopters, dirt, sardine smoothies and of course cute kōrure chicks.
This is the first in a series of posts about the translocation of kōrure to Hawke’s Bay, follow the Conservation Blog to keep up to date on the progress.