Seven critically endangered Haast tokoeka have started a new life on Pomona Island in Lake Manapouri. The release of kiwi on the island is the result of a successful partnership between the Pomona Island Charitable Trust and the Department of Conservation.
Two volunteers from the Pomona Island Charitable Trust, together with Department of Conservation staff, spent a day on Centre Island on Lake Te Anau catching the Haast kiwi.
Last night, students from Fiordland College and members of the local community helped release the kiwi on Pomona Island.
"Releasing kiwi, our national icon, on Pomona is the culmination of six years hard work by members of the Te Anau/Manapouri community to remove pests from Pomona Island" said John Whitehead, Chair of the Trust. "It is a major milestone for us."
The Trust has worked for the past three years with DOC to protect Haast tokoeka on nearby Rona Island. This is the first time that kiwi have been released on Pomona Island.
"We have been impressed with the professionalism and dedication of members of the Pomona Island Charitable Trust" said Neil Freer, Haast Tokoeka Kiwi Team Leader. "They have worked hard to create two island sanctuaries on Lake Manapouri to help protect not only the kiwi but other endangered species such as the mohua (yellowhead). This is proving to be a great partnership between DOC and a committed community group to bring about some great results for critically endangered species."
To help ensure the survival of this special bird, DOC is managing the Haast Tokoeka population with the help of BNZ Operation Nest Egg. This involves rescuing eggs from the wild, incubating them at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch and then releasing them in predator-free environments.
The seven Tokoeka released on Wednesday evening were first transferred as chicks to Centre Island in Lake Te Anau. Once on Pomona it is hoped that the young birds will pair up, breed successfully and produce healthy wild-hatched chicks that will increase the Tokoeka population.
Pomona and Rona Islands are an asset for the community and provide an accessible location where people can see, hear and learn about New Zealand's native flora and fauna.
- Pomona Island is the largest island in a lake in New Zealand.
- The Pomona Island Charitable Trust is a community-led volunteer conservation organisation.
- Over 240 volunteers have put in nearly 7000 hours to rid Pomona and Rona Islands of pest species (rats, stoats, possums and deer) and to maintain them as island sanctuaries.
- In June the Pomona Island Charitable Trust won a 2011 national Green Ribbon award for "protecting our biodiversity".
- The Haast tokoeka is a subspecies of kiwi, closely related to the Stewart Island and Fiordland tokoeka. It is critically endangered with approx. 370 birds.
- The Haast tokoeka sanctuary is within the catchment of the Arawhata River, south of Haast in South Westland.
- Pomona Island is one of four sites in which Haast tokoeka have been released, including Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin.
- It is hoped that the absence of predators at sites like Pomona Island will encourage tokoeka to breed at a higher rate than those in the Haast sanctuary.
- Chicks born on Pomona Island will be released back into their ancestral territory in the Haast sanctuary when they are big enough to defend themselves against stoats, the kiwi's main predator.