Conservation countdown — our top stories of 2019

Department of Conservation —  31/12/2019

2019 has been another big year for us here at the Department of Conservation. We take a look back and countdown some of biggest stories throughout the year.

10. Takahe – bumper breeding season

It was a big year for takahē with a bumper breeding season seeing the population surpassing the 400 mark for the first time in over a century.

Critically the number of breeding pairs has doubled in the last six years which means a brighter future for the bird once considered extinct.

Takahe and chick. Photo: Sian Moffitt
Feeding time for this takahē chick. 📷: Sian Moffitt

9. Hoiho – bird of the year crown

2019 was the year that a seabird finally took out the title of Bird of the Year. Run annually by Forest & Bird, this year’s competition was as fierce as ever with campaigns taking to social media to share hilarious and witty memes to encourage voters.

The hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin crew ran a marvellous campaign to bring awareness to this nationally endangered seabird, amassing a huge support base online, and just pipping the popular kākāpō at the finish line.

Hoiho received a much needed helping hand in November with over $500,000 from the DOC Community Fund going to protect the future of this taonga species.

Yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho). Photo by Sam O'Leary.
Hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin. 📷: Sam O’Leary

8. Rare rowi kiwi strays far from home

A rare rowi kiwi who had strayed far from her lowland forest home to a cliff face at 1250 metre in the snowy mountains of South Westland was rescued after a mission by the Search and Rescue Alpine Cliff Rescue Team.

The rowi, named “Aroha” was one of 27 juvenile rowi released last December into the area around Lake Gault, which is situated amid lowland forest near the township of Fox Glacier.

Aroha the rowi kiwi. 📷: DOC

7. Humpridge Track to become a Great Walk

In July it was announced that Southland’s 61 km Hump Ridge Track will become New Zealand’s next Great Walk. The Track will provide walkers with access to a spectacular southern coastline and forests, dramatic alpine tops and historic viaducts.

In December New Zealand’s ninth Great Walk, the Paparoa Track, was opened at a ceremony in Blackball on the West Coast.

Hump Ridge Loop Track.
Hump Ridge Track. 📷: Hump Ridge Track Ltd

6. Stoat and Karearea stare off at Aoraki

In March our staff captured some amazing footage of a stoat and kārearea/falcon having a stand-off near our Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park office. 

Stoats will take on just about anything, even a fully grown falcon! They are quick and nimble and while the falcon may have been able to fight it off, its chicks might not have been so lucky.

5. New Biodiversity Strategy

This year we launched our consultation on New Zealand’s latest biodiversity strategy. Check out the inspiring video created to encourage submissions on this important strategy.

4. Royal cam star Karere fledges

In September our Royal Cam star Karere fledged from her nest at Taiaroa Head bear Dunedin. She will spend the next 4-10 years at sea before returning to Taiaroa Head to breed.

We’re already preparing for our next Royal Cam Star with a new camera and a partnership with Cornell University. Find out more about our Royal Cam:

Karere. 📷: DOC

3. New genetically distinct population of Haast tokoeka kiwi

In July we celebrated the discovery of a new, genetically distinct subpopulation of the critically endangered Haast tokoeka by DOC staff on the West Coast near Haast.

Haast tokoeka is New Zealand’s most endangered kiwi. Finding an isolated population that we didn’t even know about is something to celebrate as it takes numbers up to an estimated 475 adult birds in the wild.

Haast tokoeka kiwi. Photo: © Sabine Bernert.
Haast tokoeka kiwi. 📷: DOC

2. Bumper kakapo breeding season

No list would be complete without celebrating the success of a massive kākāpō breeding season that saw a 44% increase in their population.

With so many new chicks, it was all hands on deck with specialist help from zoos and vets all around the world. The season was complicated by an outbreak of aspergillosis, a respiratory disease which killed two adult birds and seven chicks.

Our Kākāpō Recovery Team worked with Auckland Zoo, Massey Wildbase, Dunedin Wildlife Hospital and Wellington Zoo to treat the affected birds and to understand more about the underlying causes of this disease.

The first kākāpō to hatch in 2016.
Kākāpō chick. 📷: DOC

1. Conservation Dog Flint’s rescue

Our top story for 2019 was an extraordinary rescue from the ends of the earth. 

Conservation Dog Flint had to be rescued from Campbell Island in the New Zealand subantarctics after being charged at by a sea lion and running away. An extensive ground search couldn’t find Flint and with bad weather closing in and a mechanical issue on the boat needing to be fixed the difficult decision was made to leave.

Luckily the focus shifted to a rescue operation by helicopter and Flint was found safe and well waiting for our return at Beeman base when we arrived. It was an epic rescue and our top story for 2019!

Flint the Conservation Dog

We’re looking forwards to an even bigger and brighter year for conservation and recreation in 2020!

3 responses to Conservation countdown — our top stories of 2019


    Great work people…


    What a great rundown on happenings in the land of DOC. 🙂


    Great run down of what has happened with the highlights especially on the numbers recoveries