Conservation countdown — our top stories of 2021

Department of Conservation —  01/01/2022

While 2021 wasn’t quite the year many of us hoped for – especially with lockdowns in Tāmaki Makaurau, it was still a busy year for conservation. The continuing pandemic has meant we’ve had to keep finding new ways to connect with nature.

We take a look back and countdown some of the biggest conservation stories throughout the year...

10. Rare pekapeka/bats found

In June, bat detectors placed in the Central North Island township of Owhango revealed a rare population of long-tailed bats (pekapeka-tou-roa).

This discovery was a huge win for local conservation groups and DOC rangers alike, as long-tailed bats are a critically endangered native species endemic to New Zealand. The pest control efforts that Owhango Alive have carried out in the area has contributed towards protecting this native taonga/treasure.

Long-tailed bat. Photo: Sabine Bernert ©

9. Tiaki – our Royalcam albatross chick

The albatrosses at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head had a record-breaking breeding season. Our Royal Cam star Tiaki took to the skies in September, to spend the next four to 10 years travelling thousands of kilometres at sea without once touching the land.

This year a satellite tracker was attached to Tiaki before she fledged, meaning her voyage to South America can be tracked online.

8. Jobs for Nature – Mahi mō te Taiao

This year the Jobs for Nature programme has been helping to revitalise communities and achieve conservation gains through nature-based employment. This is part of the Government’s programme to help stimulate the economy and create jobs. We are working with other government agencies to deliver this work.

Here are some of the projects that have been funded through Jobs for Nature.

7. New Campsite Pass launched

In July we launched a new campsite pass designed to support Kiwis to spend time in nature.

The campsite pass offers great value for frequent campsite users and encourages use of quieter campsites outside of peak season. The pass gives people access to about 94% of all DOC campsites around New Zealand, including bookable and non-bookable campsites.

Camping in Aotearoa

6. The new Mintaro Hut

If you’ve walked the Milford Track you know how good it feels to reach Mintaro Hut. The brand new hut officially opened in October this year.

The new build replaces the original hut which was found to be sitting in a potential rockfall zone.

5. Taking a moment for Conservation Week

Our Conservation Week theme of taking a moment for nature to benefit our own wellbeing, was a really important message this year.

As we entered Conservation Week in September, New Zealand was on our fourth week at heightened COVID-19 alert levels. A new report released that week highlighted the importance of connection to nature and others in helping people get through the global pandemic.

4. Fight for the Wild

Released in May, Fight for the Wild was an award winning documentary film and podcast series exploring the notion of a Predator Free 2050 in Aotearoa.

It took viewers into the wild heart of Aotearoa and documented the desperate battle to protect it; it explored the notion of a Predator Free 2050 , asking whether this big, bold initiative is achievable and if so, how?

It was made possible by the Radio NZ/New Zealand On Air Innovation Fund.

3. Toa the baby orca

In July, we led a 12-day operation to care for an orca calf, gifted the name Toa, that stranded on rocks near Wellington.

The joint operation to care for the orca calf was supported by the Orca Research Trust, Whale Rescue Trust, local iwi Ngāti Toa Rangatira, and the local community. The goal was to return the calf to its natal pod.

Despite a massive community effort to save Toa, the orca calf deteriorated and died on the night of Friday 23 July. Toa was farewelled on Saturday 24 July at a dawn ceremony.


2. Kōkako milestone

This year saw a huge milestone for conservation, with the North Island kōkako, one of Aotearoa’s most iconic birds, brought back from the brink of extinction.

There are now 2000 breeding pairs of this secretive forest bird across the North Island, up from just 330 pairs when recovery efforts began in the 1990s.

1. Bay of Islands Marine Mammal Sanctuary

In November a marine mammal sanctuary was officially established in Te Pēiwhairangi/Bay of Islands area to not only reverse the decline in the numbers of bottlenose dolphins in the area but better protect visiting orcas and fur seals.

Marine Mammal Sanctuaries are designed to protect marine mammals from harmful human impacts, particularly in vulnerable areas. In New Zealand, New Zealand has a total of eight sanctuaries that provide special protection for marine mammals.

We’re hoping for a bigger and brighter year for conservation and recreation in 2021!

2 responses to Conservation countdown — our top stories of 2021


    Some of these mammals are endemic to the area right? They are not virus carriers, they are magnificent creatures!


    Happy 2022 lets hope for a less stressedyear. My thanks for all the news from land of long white cloud, miss my tours there, but you keep me in the loop News from the Aldatross is fantastic look forward to updates on them all