Date: 05 December 2018
The total population of shore plover / tuturuatu is just 245 birds, including 17 that are resident on Motutapu.
Shore plover were released on pest-free Motutapu in 2012. This was a year after Motutapu and neighbouring Rangitoto - the two islands are joined by a short bridge - were declared pest-free. Introduced predators removed from the islands included rats, stoats and possums that eat eggs and chicks of native birds.
Shore plover were once widespread around the coast of the North and South Islands but have been driven to the brink of extinction by rats and other introduced predators.
By 1990 there were only 130 shore plover. All these birds were on one island, Rangatira Island in the Chatham Islands, which is free of introduced predators.
“Pest-free Rangatira provided a lifeboat, preventing shore plover from becoming extinct,” says Dave Houston, who leads the Department of Conservation (DOC) Shore Plover Specialist Group.
“We’re now using Motutapu and other pest-free islands to try and secure the survival of this species.”
In the early 1990s, DOC took shore plover eggs from Rangatira and successfully hatched them at Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre.
This led to a captive breeding programme being established at Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre and the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust in Christchurch.
“In the mid-1990s we began moving captive bred shore plovers onto pest-free islands to establish new populations in the wild,“ says Dave Houston.
Today there are wild populations of shore plover on four pest-free islands - Rangatira and Mangere Islands in the Chathams, Waikawa / Portland Island in Hawkes Bay and Motutapu.
“Of the total population of 245 shore plover, 220 are living in the wild on pest-free islands,” says Dave Houston.
Rangatira is home to 50 breeding pairs of shore plover and is the only self-sustaining wild population. There are 17 breeding pairs of shore plover on Waikawa and six breeding pairs on Motutapu.
To keep Motutapu and Rangitoto pest-free anyone travelling to the islands in a boat, yacht or kayak needs to check their vessel for a mouse, rat or signs of other introduced predators. Cats and dogs are not allowed on pest-free islands.
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