Naturalist, conservationist and herpetologist, Dylan van Winkel, has worked in an a variety of challenging environments, both in New Zealand and abroad. Today he writes about a recent visit to Hauturu/Little Barrier Island as part of a Pacific gecko translocation.
This post was originally published on Dylan’s blog.
Situated 15 miles from Cape Rodney, and 11 miles from Aotea/Great Barrier Island, Hauturu/Little Barrier Island bursts out of the ocean; its knife-edged ridges rising to 2,370 ft at the summit of Mount Hauturu.
The 3,038 hectare island is fringed by an almost continuous boulder beach—except where vertical cliffs plummet into the ocean.
It is a site steeped in rich Māori cultural tradition and nationally significant conservation initiatives; and is home to some of New Zealand’s rarest and most threatened fauna and flora.
The name Hauturu, was traditionally bestowed by Toi, who arrived in New Zealand from Hawaiki circa 1150 AD in search of his grandson Whatonga.
It was said that the island was uninhabited by “ordinary mankind” but on the misty summits lived the patu-pai-arehe/fairies, visiting the coastline only at night or in misty weather to fish and collect kai moana/sea food (Hamilton 1961).
While the thought of night-faring fairies is somewhat hard to believe, there is undoubtedly some truth in the myth, as at night, the island truly becomes alive!
Scaly creatures, spiny giants, venomous villains, feathery beasts, and slimy critters emerge and take over the forest floor. However, even so, walking at night requires cautious and vigilant steps, alerted senses, and often quick reactions to catch a glimpse of the island’s inhabitants.
By day, the island is alive with bird song and, in fact, Hauturu harbours the highest number of threatened bird species compared to any other island in the country! Their calls penetrate and echo through the 400-plus species of plants and, in particular, the dawn chorus is mind-blowing; arguably unmatched by any other site in New Zealand.
In January 2014, I was fortunate enough to join a team of conservationists, lead by Auckland Council ecologist Su Sinclair, on a lizard project, aimed at translocating Pacific geckos (Dactylocnemis pacificus) to two Hauraki Gulf Islands undergoing ecological restoration.
Here are a few photos representing some of the treasures found on Hauturu during our ten day stay in paradise.
More photos can be found on Dylan’s original blog post.