Archives For Resolution Island

By Chrissy Wickes, Biodiversity Ranger, Te Anau

I recently spent seven days on the Fiordland coast, along with other DOC staff and a group of passionate volunteers, undertaking trapping work on Resolution Island, an offshore reserve for our native species.

A photo of the Dusky Sound area at dusk. Photo by Chrissy Wickes.

On dusk in the soft rain, classically Fiordland!

Resolution is a 21,000 hectare island with over 2300 traps, and 230 kilometres of tracks. It is named after Captain James Cook’s ship Resolution which landed in Dusky Sound during Cook’s Second Voyage in March 1773.

The week was spent checking stoat traps on various parts of the island.

One volunteer, Martin Sliva, recounts his experience:

Every day had its own highlights: On Wednesday after sunset I saw fernbirds in the tussock. On Thursday evening I saw the Southern Lights, with beams of light shining over the sky. Friday offered me coastal views. Saturday morning I spent checking traps and nailing heavy steel plates on the trap boxes to protect kea, while being watched by a falcon. Suddenly a robin flew by and the falcon tried to chase it without success. Then, a second robin arrived to argue with the first one over their territory. They did not care that above them sat the falcon, who was watching them quietly.

Of course the most important highlight for me was that, despite checking hundreds of traps, I didn’t catch any stoats. The absence of this public enemy number one for New Zealand birds is no doubt one of the reasons for the astounding bird life on the island.

Stoat trap on Resolution Island. Photo by Bruce Murray.

Stoat trap in the snow on Resolution Island

Bruce Murray and his daughter Lyndsay also volunteered to check some of the stoat traps for the week. They were situated a bit higher up on Resolution Island and got some beautiful photos amongst the snow.

Checking traps up high on Resolution Island. Photo by Bruce Murray.

Checking traps up high on Resolution Island

All up only 11 stoats were found in the traps during the trip, a great result!

The view from up high on Resolution Island. Photo by Bruce Murray.

What a view!

Stoat trapping on Resolution Island

Read more about the recent trip to Resolution Island from Martin Sliva on the Fiordland Restoration website.

Volunteer with DOC

Being a volunteer is fun. You also get to work as part of a team, share your skills and learn new ones, and experience conservation in action. Visit the DOC website to volunteer with DOC.

Te Papa’s curator of terrestrial vertebrates Colin Miskelly (a former DOC staff member) recently reviewed the history of bird translocations in New Zealand.

Colin co-authored a paper with former DOC scientist Ralph Powlesland, which will be published in the journal Notornis. Here, Colin provides a potted history of bird translocations before and after the formation of DOC.

Richard Henry outside his boatshed, Pigeon Island, Dusky Sound, Fiordland, March 1900

“New Zealand conservation managers have rightly gained world renown for preventing the extinction of many critically endangered birds. One of the main tools in the species conservation toolkit has been translocation—particularly to islands with few or no introduced predators.

“The history of New Zealand bird translocations dates back 150 years to Sir George Grey’s releases of kiwi and weka on Kawau Island,” says Colin. 

“However, the first concerted efforts were by Richard Henry on Resolution Island when he attempted to rescue Fiordland kākāpō and kiwi from invasive stoats in 1895–1903.

“Few bird translocations were attempted (or successful) for the next 60 years, until a young Wildlife Service officer began trials with North Island saddlebacks early in 1964.

North Island saddleback/tīeke juvenile

“Later that same year, the techniques and expertise that Don Merton and colleagues had developed on Taranga/Hen Island were used in a desperate effort to rescue South Island saddlebacks from extinction.

“The invasion of the South Cape islands (Taukihepa, Rerewhakaupoko and Pukeweka) by ship rats in 1964 was a turning point in New Zealand conservation. The saddlebacks were rescued, but the extinction of South Island snipe and bush wren were pivotal in the Wildlife Service taking a more proactive approach to species conservation,” says Colin.

“During the next 23 years (through to the formation of DOC in 1987), at least 125 bird translocations were undertaken, with 18 species moved successfully. High profile successes included translocation of the entire world population of black robins (7 birds!) from Little Mangere Island to neighbouring Mangere Island (in the Chatham Islands) in 1976–77.

“There has been an explosion in the number and diversity of translocations attempted since DOC’s creation—including over 280 translocations of 49 different bird species. The main driver for this huge increase in translocation effort has been the development of island and mainland pest control techniques, including development of predator-resistant fences.

“Mainland restoration has allowed many more New Zealanders to have a direct involvement with species translocations. Community-based restoration groups have proliferated, and they now generate the bulk of species translocation proposals.

Whio project, Mangatepopo, Tongariro National Park

“Over the first 25 years of DOC, staff have participated in a paradigm shift from them doing the bulk of species conservation work, to the current situation where DOC staff support and encourage community-led initiatives.”

Local Te Anau children Liam Norris and Maki Kameyama help
DOC scientist Graeme Elliott open one of the mohua transfer boxes
in the Eglinton Valley

Do you know of any community-led initiatives is your area? There are hundreds of community conservation projects working in partnership with DOC around the country. Join an existing one in your region or start your own.