Giv­ing flight to god­wit sup­port

The Tribune (NZ) - - ENVIRONMENT -

An agree­ment signed last week be­tween the Department of Con­ser­va­tion (DOC) and China’s State Forestry Ad­min­is­tra­tion (SFA) to pro­tect wet­lands used by mi­gra­tory birds has been wel­comed by As­so­ciate Con­ser­va­tion Min­is­ter Nicky Wag­ner.

Each year the red knot and the bar-tailed god­wit un­der­take an as­tound­ing 12,000km mi­gra­tion from New Zealand to China be­fore fly­ing on to their breed­ing grounds. At the end of the breed­ing sea­son, they re­turn to New Zealand – an an­nual round trip of at least 24,000km. It’s an epic feat of flight over open water un­matched by any other shore­bird species.

The red knots breed in Siberia, the god­wits in Alaska, and both species stop off on their long jour­ney north to feed at wet­lands in China. The birds are also a ma­jor fea­ture at the Fox­ton Es­tu­ary, which is a world Ram­sar site. Sculp­tures ap­pre­ci­at­ing the birds’ re­mark­able fly­ing feats and the at­trac­tion they pro­vide have been set up on the es­tu­ary at Fox­ton Beach.

Nicky says the agree­ment en­ables these re­mark­able birds to con­tinue their jour­neys unim­peded by en­sur­ing that these vi­tal wet­lands are left in­tact.

The Mem­o­ran­dum of Ar­range­ment (MOA) also has pro­vi­sion for New Zealand and China to work to­gether to pro­tect wet­lands used by these and other mi­gra­tory shore­birds dur­ing their an­nual mi­gra­tions.

The agree­ment al­lows for on­go­ing co-op­er­a­tion to pro­tect and re­store sev­eral wet­lands used by the birds, in­clud­ing Puko­rokoro-Mi­randa on the Firth of Thames, where the agree­ment was signed. Thou­sands of red knots and god­wits spend the sum­mer at Puko­rokoro-Mi­randa and are about to leave on their mi­gra­tion.

In China, the agree­ment pro­tects a seven kilo­me­tre stretch of coastal mud­flat and salt ponds in Bo­hai Bay, He­bei Prov­ince, used by red knots, and a wet­land in the Yalu Jian Na­ture Re­serve near Dan­dong, North­ern China, fre­quented by god­wits.

‘‘It is in­spir­ing to see co­op­er­a­tion at so many lev­els to help these in­cred­i­ble birds on their jour­neys,’’ Wag­ner says.

The agree­ment is sup­ported by Ngati Paoa iwi, Puko­rokoro-Mi­randa Nat­u­ral­ist Trust and Fon­terra.

PHOTO: ROD HAYE/SUP­PLIED

A bar-tailed god­wit, one of two bird species whose travel ar­range­ments are be­ing fa­cil­i­tated at in­ter-gov­ern­men­tal level.

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