South Island robins are due to be released onto Abel Tasman National Park’s Adele Island this week, leading off the return to the island of native wildlife that once lived there.
The release of robins as the first native bird species to be reintroduced to Adele Island/Motuarero-nui is a landmark step in the island’s ecological restoration and its establishment as a sanctuary for native species.
In a joint endeavour by the Department of Conservation and the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, at least 30 South Island robins/kakaruai are due to be moved over the next two days (Tuesday 5 May and Wednesday 6 May) to Adele from Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds.
The transfer of the robins is being carried out by DOC staff and funded by the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, a community conservation initiative set up to help to preserve and enhance the natural environment of Abel Tasman National Park and surrounding areas.
The seven main Abel Tasman water transport and kayak operators are core members of the Birdsong Trust and are raising funds for it by collecting a Birdsong Levy from clients each time they cross the park's foreshore.
DOC Motueka Area Manager Martin Rodd said it was fantastic to be at the stage of restoring Adele Island’s native wildlife following stoat and mice eradication operations to make the island predator-free.
“Bringing back robins is a significant milestone in the ecological restoration of Adele Island and fulfilling the vision of it being an island sanctuary for native species.
'It is great to have the backing of the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust to achieve this and also the help of the Torrent Bay Pest Control Group. Both groups maintain trapping lines along the Abel Tasman Coast Track to prevent stoats swimming across to reinvade Adele Island.
“Robins were once widespread in Abel Tasman National Park but it is thought their numbers now are very low. They have not been recorded on Adele Island for 25 years.
“South Island robins have flourished when released on other island sanctuaries and it is expected they will do so on Adele Island.”
“It's a great team effort too - funded by tourism operators, and supported by iwi and other conservationists, including Richard Fowler, who is helping to keep alive Perrine Moncrieff's dream for this area."
Richard Fowler, a Birdsong Trust member, was made guardian of the Moncrieff Private Scenic Reserve on the Abel Tasman coastline by Perrine Moncrieff who, through her campaigning, was instrumental in the creation of Abel Tasman National Park.
Mr Rodd said anyone stopping at Adele Island is asked to help keep it safe for native species by not taking dogs or carrying pests onto the island.
“Boats, kayaks, bags and other gear should be checked before landing at the island to make sure there are no mice, rats, ants, spiders or other animals inside. Clothing, footwear and gear should be free of soil and plant material, including seeds and foliage, to prevent weeds being spread to the island.”
The Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust was set up to raise, manage and distribute funds for conservation programmes in Abel Tasman National Park and surrounding areas with the aim of filling the forests and beaches with birdsong.
Initial members of the trust are major boat and kayak companies operating in the national park and on the Abel Tasman Foreshore Scenic Reserve. Other businesses less directly associated with the park, such as accommodation providers and restaurants, also are able to join and contribute to the Trust as associate members. Individuals can join as Friends, paying an annual subscription and able to take part in volunteer conservation work.
Abel Tasman tourist operators that have joined the trust are:
- Wilsons Abel Tasman
- Marahau Sea Kayaks
- Marahau Beach Camp Water Taxis
- Kayaking Abel Tasman (incorporating Kaiteriteri Kayaks, Kiwi Kayak, Abel Tasman Kayaks and Ocean River Sea Kayaking) and Abel Tasman Aqua Taxis
- Kahu Kayaks
- The Sea Kayak Company
- Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles
Other native species being considered for release onto Adele Island include South Island saddleback/tieke, parakeets/kakariki, the endangered cresses Rorippa divaricata and Lepidium banksii, which grow on the Abel Tasman coast, and rare white mistletoe/Tupeia Antarctica.
Adele Island is currently used as a crèche for great spotted kiwi/roroa chicks in support of the Paparoa Wildlife Trust conservation project in the West Coast South Paparoa Range. The chicks hatch at Christchurch’s Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and then live on Adele Island until big enough - around 1 kg in size - to fend off attacks from stoats. They are then released into the Paparoa project area. Four kiwi chicks are currently on the island.
The department carried out an operation in 2007 to eradicate mice on the island and stoats were cleared through trapping carried out by DOC staff with the assistance of Marahau residents and tourist operators.
Richard Fowler has been invited to assist with the bird release and as spokesperson for the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust. Richard was one of the interim trustees who helped set up the Trust and has had a lifelong association with the Abel Tasman since childhood. He also has been entrusted with the oversight of the Perrine Moncreiff Private Scenic Reserve which sits adjacent to Adele Island in the Astrolabe. Richard said that he knows Perrine would have been thrilled to witness what is happening today and the restoration efforts driven by a community desire to protect and enhance this place.