Despite La Nina weather patterns creating a tough breeding season for seabirds nationally, New Zealand’s most northern population of grey-faced petrels are beating the odds.
According to the Department of Conservation’s recently completed monitoring, the Cape Reinga birds are showing a 62% survival rate amongst chicks, well above the national average of 50% for birds on pest free offshore islands.
Grey-faced petrels have been steadily declining along the coastline of mainland New Zealand.
The Department of Conservation’s Kaitaia Area Manager, Jon Maxwell, credits a vigilant trapping regime for the programme’s success.
“So far this season we’ve caught 14 stoats, 2 cats, 10 possums, 40 rats and 64 mice”, Mr Maxwell says.
The programme has been running for three years due to sponsorship by United Civil Construction. Without support, Mr Maxwell says the programme couldn’t continue.
“We simply don’t have the funding for the project ourselves. So it’s been fantastic to get that support from United Civil Construction,” Mr Maxwell added.
The project has recently been handed over to local iwi Ngati Kuri.
The Ngati Kuri Trust Board says that as Ngati Kuri are the tangata whenua and kaitiaki of Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga), its appropriate that they lead this work.
Ngati Kuri’s project co-ordinator for the grey-faced petrel programme, Pani Petera is expecting that this project will continue to have ongoing financial support by sponsors.
“Te Rerenga Wairua is one of New Zealand’s most iconic sites, and having grey-faced petrels adds to the cultural and ecological well-being of the area,” says Ms Petera.
“We are hoping to improve the population of the grey-faced petrels at Te Rerenga Wairua with the ongoing eradication programme of predators like rats, stoats and possums, as well as cats and dogs,” says Ms Petera.