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