Lou talks about Million Dollar Mouse, takahē, The Nature Conservancy, Uenuku, the new shore plover aviary at Cape Sanctuary, Lincoln's Parks and Outdoor Recreation major and pygmy blue whale research.

Date:  04 April 2018

D-G Direct: An update from Lou.

We have seen two amazing conservation stories recently.

The Million Dollar Mouse team, led by DOC’s Steve Horn, have arrived back from Antipodes Island after a month of post operation monitoring. Finding no sign of mice, the island is now officially mouse free.

This has been a world-leading conservation effort, with the help of the Morgan Foundation, Island Conservation, WWF – New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Navy. The $4 million DOC operation saw $1 million raised by the New Zealand public and partners. Of New Zealand’s five subantarctic island groups, now only mainland Auckland Island remains to tackle for Predator Free 2050.

A huge congratulations to DOC’s takahē team and Ngāi Tahu for the successful translocation of 18 takahē from the Burwood Takahē Centre near Te Anau to their new home in Kahurangi National Park. A great team effort with Ngāi Tahu to get the large flightless birds from one end of the South Island to the other.

During their transfer, three of the birds were officially welcomed on to Onetahua marae, where they were handed over from Ngāi Tahu to Manawhenua ki Mohua, in an emotional event. The event to celebrate the release of the birds was deeply appreciated by our partners and showed what could be achieved by working together.

Fulton Hogan are DOC’s national partner for Takahē Recovery and offer valuable support, including the sharing of their technical expertise to the Takahē Recovery Programme.

Our partnership with Air New Zealand has enabled an additional 6400 ha pest-control network at Gouland Downs on the Heaphy Track, which is the new home of the takahē in Kahurangi National Park. Also, to help minimise time and stress for the birds in the transfer, Air New Zealand put on a special direct charter service from Queenstown to Nelson.

The Takahē Recovery Programme is also proudly supported by Mitre 10 and the New Zealand National Parks and Conservation Foundation.

These achievements have demonstrated the real benefits of working together – partnerships lead to successful conservation initiatives.

Takahē release at Gouland Downs.
Releasing takahē at Gouland Downs. Front from left: Te Rua of Ngāti Waewae, Archdeacon Harvey Ruru representing Manawhenua ki Mohua and Jason van de Wetering of the Takahē Team 
Image: Danilo Hegg ©

The Nature Conservancy – Asia Pacific Council Symposium

DOC played a key role in hosting The Nature Conservancy Board in Auckland and Fiordland last month. Minister Sage opened the symposium, which covered New Zealand and international innovation in marine and freshwater management, and natural capital funding models.

The Nature Conservancy is the largest conservation organisation in the world with 1 million members across 72 countries, and 3,600 staff.

Carl McGuinness was recently seconded from DOC to The Nature Conservancy, New Zealand, to serve as Conservation Director. Michael Looker is the New Zealand Program Director.

Lou with Nature Conservancy Board members in Fiordland.
DOC hosted The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Board in Fiordland. From left: Jack Hurd (Deputy Director, TNC Asia Pacific Region). Dr Fred Hu (Chairman and Founder Primavera Capital, Co-chair TNC Asia Pacific Council), Lou Sanson, Dr Michael Looker (Director, New Zealand Program), Moses Tsang (Executive Chairman, AP Capital Holdings, Co-chair TNC Asia Pacific Council and member of TNC’s Global Board of Directors) and Charles Bedford (Managing Director, TNC Asia Pacific Region)

They are essentially a science-based organisation focussed on five critical international priorities:

  • tackle climate change
  • protect land and water
  • provide food and water sustainably
  • build healthy cities
  • connect people and nature

Their key mission is “to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends” and to create a world where people and nature thrive.

People on a hut deck during a talk at Anchor Island.
Lindsay Wilson talks to The Nature Conservancy Board, Anchor Island

Uenuku – Children of the rainbow

I recently participated with Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister, Hon Andrew Little, on a remarkable day “Rā Wawata” – Aspirations day as the people of Uenuku, Tamakana and Tamahaki outlined their aspirations to connect with whenua through their forthcoming Treaty Settlement. The highlight was the release of four whio at the Makatoke River viaduct by the Minister, kaumātua Jim Edmonds and tamariki of Raetihi School. We were all very excited to see a wild juvenile whio join the newly released birds.

People at a whio release.
From left: Lou Sanson, Kaumātua Jim Edmonds, Alissia Hiroti (Raetihi School), DOC Senior Ranger Community Susan Osborne, Te Kohatu Bauer (Raetihi School), Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Hon. Andrew Little 
Image: John Chapman ©

It was also a chance to recognise Genesis Energy and Wildbase for their whio efforts. By 2021 Genesis will have put $5.5 million over 10 years towards whio. KiwiRail had also put in $50,000 towards the Makatote River predator work while they painted their viaduct. Kia Wharite biodiversity collaboration was also represented on the day by Horizons Regional Council. The New Zealand whio population is now close to 3,000 birds with 500 in the headwaters of the Whanganui River with sustained predator control.

Originally planned for Te Poti Marae, opposite Pīpīriki, the event was shifted due to significant flooding of the Whanganui River. Whanganui staff were fully involved in managing over 100 walkers, kayakers and cyclists stranded by the flooded river.

People releasing whio into water.
Foreground to back: D-G Lou Sanson, Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little, Kaumātua Jim Edmonds (Uenuku, Tamakana & Tamahaki), 11-year-old Te Kohatu Bauer (descendant of Uenuku, Tamakana and Tamahaki) and DOC Senior Ranger Community Susan Osborne 
Image: Robert Milne, Ruapehu Bulletin ©

Kotahi shore plover aviary – Cape Sanctuary

On Thursday 8 March I was honoured to open the Kotahi Aviary at Cape Sanctuary to help turn around the chances of New Zealand shore plover recovery. With only 240 birds left in New Zealand they are listed as critically endangered.

Andy Lowe (Cape Sanctuary Co-founder) and David Ross (CEO Kotahi), along with a large team of volunteers led by Paul Dippie, and seed funding from DOC Community Fund, has constructed New Zealand’s largest new aviary.

Kotahi is New Zealand’s largest container exporting company with MAERSK Line (30% of all New Zealand’s exports – 30,000 containers a year).

David Ross had many of the Kotahi staff there and spoke of the role New Zealand businesses have to play in a committed effort to help New Zealand maintain its unique national identity through nature.

People at the opening of Kotahi Aviary.
David Ross, Andy Lowe and Lou Sanson at the opening of the Kotahi Aviary 
Image: John Cowpland ©

Lincoln's Parks and Outdoor Recreation major

It’s fantastic to be teaming up with Lincoln University over their Parks and Outdoor Recreation major.

Good management of our natural landscapes and ecosystems is key to the success of the visitor industry. Bringing together areas of social science and ecology, the course is designed to equip students for roles in parks and reserves management, nature-based tourism, visitor services and recreation policy or planning. With an extra million tourists expected to visit New Zealand each year by 2025, these skills are desperately needed and DOC will fund seven scholarships for students enrolled in this year’s first intake of the programme.

Read our joint media release 

New Zealand’s blue whales

Over the last decade, DOC has supported researchers from NIWA and other institutions who have described a population of hundreds of pygmy blue whales which use New Zealand waters year-round. Over recent summers we have jointly funded research with Aotearoa Foundation (Julian Robertson) and Oregon State University (Leigh Torres) to further describe this population.

This year, led by Dr Kim Goetz from NIWA, was our first year to successfully tag two blue whales near Westport. Our aim is to discover where pygmy blue whales spend their time in New Zealand, and therefore which areas are important for their conservation. This research is critical as we look at a potential Taranaki Marine Mammal Sanctuary.

Surprisingly one whale circumnavigated the South Island, while the other headed north to Auckland before the tag stopped transmitting.

Last week tourism operators recorded 12 blue whales off Kaikoura. With warmer La Niña sea temperatures over this summer the whales may have moved further south to feed on krill, which are typically present in areas with nutrient upwelling.

Person preparing to tag a whale.
Simon Childerhouse preparing to tag a whale 
Photo: Kim Goetz NIWA ©

Map of NZ showing tagged whale tracks.
Tracks and locations of two tagged blue whales (green = start; red = end). Both animals were tagged west of Westport. Note that the track on the right, has not transmitted since 13 Febrary but is expected to transmit in the future. Gaps in satellite data are quite common 
Image: NIWA ©

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