The Department of Conservation says New Zealand has lost an internationally acclaimed conservation pioneer with the death of Don Merton at the weekend.
Don Merton, who was a senior member of DOC’s scientific staff prior to his retirement in 2005, led the fight to help save both the kākāpō and the black robin from extinction.
Don Merton was involved in the recovery of many bird species and developed vital techniques to help threatened species. In 1998 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) elected Don to its Global 500 Roll of Honour for his “outstanding contributions to the protection and improvement of the environment.” Don was also named one of “100 Great New Zealanders of the 20th Century” by the NZ Listener.
Don Merton with kakapo Richard Henry
Al Morrison, Director General of DOC, said Don Merton was a remarkable conservationist.
“It’s not many of us who play a pivotal role in pulling an entire species back from the brink - Don did three times. The techniques he developed became the blueprint for much of DOC’s work with threatened species,” said Al.
Don Merton revolutionised methods which brought the black robin back from a single female on a remote island in the Chathams to a flourishing population of more than 200 today.
He also led the team responsible for discovering the last kākāpō in Fiordland and managing their recovery through an innovative breeding programme on protected islands. He worked to save South Island saddlebacks from extinction, and used his knowledge to help other species both in New Zealand and across the world.
Al Morrison says DOC will be honouring Don Merton’s contribution to conservation during Conservation Week later this year.