Endangered tern eggs stolen from nest
Two eggs from critically endangered fairy terns have been stolen just days before they were due to hatch, leaving conservation volunteers devastated.
The eggs were taken from Te Arai Beach, Rodney, on the shores of the Hauraki Gulf.
Less than 50 of the critically endangered fairy terns remain - once widespread around the North Island and eastern South Island they are now confined to a small area in the north of Auckland.
Volunteers and Department of Conservation rangers watch over them during the breeding season on the Mangawhai spit and along the shore toward Te Arai Point, Pakiri, Waipu, and Papakanui Spit on the Kaipara Harbour.
Volunteers had been taking four-hour shifts watching over the nesting birds during the day, with a camera set up during the night, since the birds began nesting there on November 23, Te Arai Dotterel Care Group spokeswoman Lynne Whale said.
Footprints were found on the morning of December 6 leading into the cordoned-off area of the fairy tern nest. The camera looked to have been tampered with and recent footage, including from that night, wiped, Chris Wilde, also with the dotterel care group, said.
Two dotterel nests, each with three eggs, were also taken in the same area last week.
There has been speculation the eggs could have been taken for wildlife trafficking, but as the eggs were all so close to hatching they would have been no good for "blowing" and potentially selling, Wilde said.
The population of fairy terns has been slowly increasing after hitting an all time low of just eight birds 30 years ago.
This is the first time in 20 years a pair has been found to be nesting near the Te Arai stream.