If you’re hiking or biking the Paparoa Track, keep your eyes open. And not just for the stunning views – many rare and wonderful native species live around the Paparoa Track.
The Paparoa National Park and the surrounding mountains is a rich area of biodiversity. From kiwi to giant land snails, the area’s forests are home to a breathtaking array of creatures. There’s even one seabird, the Westland Petrel/Tāiko, that breeds nowhere else in the world.
Introduced predators and habitat destruction have endangered many of these native species. While once they would have lived throughout the West Coast, now populations survive only in forested areas like the Paparoa National Park. Pests like stoats, rats and possums compete with native species for food and habitat, and also feed off native animals and their young.
The Department of Conservation is working in partnership with Treaty partner Ngāti Waewae, DOC’s National Partner for Conservation Air New Zealand, the Paparoa Wildlife Trust and many other community groups to protect the incredible native species that live around the Paparoa Track.
In 2018, Air New Zealand pledged $400,000 over four years to fund biodiversity projects alongside the Paparoa Track. This will be used to install an additional 400 predator trap boxes along 40 km of new trap lines, increase goat control and increase population monitoring.
The conservation projects in the Paparoa National Park and surrounding area are helping to increase the populations of threatened native species. These species include…
Great Spotted Kiwi/Roroa
Great Spotted Kiwi are the largest kiwi species and live only in high areas in the upper South Island. Although they are big birds, their young are particularly vulnerable to stoats.
These kiwi are the main focus of the Paparoa Wildlife Trust, which works to protect them through research, monitoring and threat management. The Trust has constructed a 12.5 hectare predator-proof enclosure on the Atarau Plains, near the Paparoa National Park. This area acts as a ‘Kiwi Crèche’, where kiwi chicks are raised, before being released into the wild. The Trust protects kiwi and other native species through stoat trapping in the Roaring Meg Ecological Area, near the Croesus Track. Read more about the Trust here.
Powelliphanta are some of the largest snails in the world – they can weigh 90g (the weight of a tuī!) and live up to 20 years. They are carnivorous and their favourite treat is earthworms, which they suck up like spaghetti. Today, Powelliphanta snails are among New Zealand’s most threatened invertebrates and several species are at risk of extinction. The species found near the Paparoa Track is Powelliphanta gagei.
If you see a Powelliphanta shell, leave it where it is. It’s against the law to take or hold them, and it’s often hard to tell if a shell is empty.
Blue ducks are thought to be an ancient waterfowl species. Globally, they are one of the few waterfowl that live all year in fast-flowing rivers. Blue duck are at risk of extinction and as they are scattered along remote rivers, predator control is particularly difficult. With support from Air New Zealand, Genesis and the Paparoa Wildlife Trust, DOC is working to protect whio and reverse the population decline of these special birds.
The Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot and one of the most intelligent birds. Their cheeky antics and mischievous behaviour might make them seem tough. However, they are classified as threatened – nationally endangered, and are at risk from stoats, possums and people.
If you’re in a busy tourist spot, kea might approach you. Keep a close watch on your belongings! It’s important not to feed them – human food can kill kea, and it also makes them more likely to eat predator control bait.
The Westland Petrel was discovered by students at Barrytown School while doing a school project. They are one of mainland New Zealand’s few surviving species of petrel and so are of great importance. They range far across the world from Eastern Australia to Peru and Chile, but only breed in an 8 km area of coastal forest near Punakaiki.
If you’re on the beach south of Punakaiki River, keep an eye out. You might see Westland Petrels flying home to their colonies at dusk.
How you can help protect native species – on the Paparoa Track and at home
– Don’t ride the Paparoa Track at night, as kiwi and snails are out.
– Always stay at least 20 m from wildlife.
– Consider volunteering or putting a trap in your backyard.
– Make a donation to the Paparoa Wildlife Trust. You can even sponsor your own stoat trap and receive yearly updates on what predators it catches.
Keen to see some of these amazing species in person? Book now to hike or bike the Paparoa Track.