James Russell Element editor
Just a week or two after the announcement of Gareth Morgan’s anti-cat crusade, I was crouched at the base of a giant puriri tree, deep in the bush of Great Barrier Island. “Go on, take a look,” said Scott Sambell, manager of Glenfern Sanctuary. I lay down, and wriggled a little way into a dark, earthy cavern under the tree roots. I flicked on my torch, and there it was – the tiny grey fluffball of a black petrel, sitting quietly in its nest.
With its mother away fishing for the day, the chick’s astonishing vulnerability was a revelation – here was an animal which had evolved in such an unbelievably benign environment it had absolutely no defence aside from keeping schtum. I realised Morgan was right, if we are to keep our birds.
Now, Landcare Research has released a roadmap which shows how the 2% annual decline in kiwi numbers can be halted and, with investment, turned around.
The report says that the extra funding needed to increase Kiwi numbers across all 10 species by 2% a year is ‘significant’, but I’d argue that an annual $8.1m on top of the Kiwi Conservation Funding Package announced in budget 2015 is an inexpensive no-brainer.
Make no mistake about the main culprits; dogs and cats, ferrets and stoats. More than 95% of kiwi chicks born in areas without predator control are killed before they reach breeding age. However, up to 60% of kiwi chicks survive in areas where predators are controlled.
Much of that success is down to the incredible volunteers who protect their own private patch, the success of which has produced solid baseline information for this report. Their dedication is to be congratulated.