North Island robin released on Mt Taranaki as part of conservation project

One of the 36 North Island robin re-located to Mt Taranaki on Sunday.
Mark Dwyer

One of the 36 North Island robin re-located to Mt Taranaki on Sunday.

The transfer of toutouwai to Mt Taranaki marks a major milestone for a conservation project designed to revitalise the region's most notable landmark.

On Sunday, 36 toutouwai or North Island robin were released, the first species to be introduced as part of the Taranaki Mounga conservation project.

Taranaki Mounga chairman Jamie Tuuta said the return of the robin was a "symbolic milestone" for the $24 million dollar initiative.

A kaumatua from Ngati Rereahu, who are the mana whenua of Pureora Forest Park, blesses the birds before they are set ...
Mark Dwyer

A kaumatua from Ngati Rereahu, who are the mana whenua of Pureora Forest Park, blesses the birds before they are set free on Mt Taranaki.

Tuuta said it was the first step towards bringing the mountain "back to life".   

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"If you stand on Mt Taranaki now you do not hear a lot of birdsong.  Returning toutouwai/robin, and the related predator control, is the project's first step towards delivering major ecological gains for the park, bringing the mountain He Kawa Ora - back to life," Tuuta said.

On Sunday, volunteers released 36 North Island robin or toutouwai on Mt Taranaki.
Mark Dwyer

On Sunday, volunteers released 36 North Island robin or toutouwai on Mt Taranaki.

Taranaki Mounga is a collaboration between the Department of Conservation (DOC), the region's eight iwi groups and the philanthropic NEXT Foundation. It aims to restore and revitalise the environment on the mountain so wildlife can flourish.

In preparation for Sunday's event, volunteers travelled to the Pureora Forest Park, near Taupo, to capture the birds.

The relationship between Taranaki and Te Atiawa iwi groups and the mana whenua of Pureora Forest Park - Ngati Rereahu - has been a strong feature of the translocation project.

Taranaki Mounga chairman Jamie Tuuta called the return of the robin a "symbolic milestone".
Supplied

Taranaki Mounga chairman Jamie Tuuta called the return of the robin a "symbolic milestone".

Te Atiawa's Hoani Eriwata was part of the team which went to Pureora Forest Park and he also assisted with the robin release.

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"It is very important to re-establish the bird life on the mounga and it has been a real privilege, and learning experience, to be part of the translocation," Eriwata said.

Each toutouwai was carried in an individual box to the release site and a blessing was conducted by Ngati Rereahu kaumatua before the birds were set free.

The return of the North Island robin to the region is part of the Taranaki Mounga project.
Mark Dwyer

The return of the North Island robin to the region is part of the Taranaki Mounga project.

The North Island robin is slightly larger than a house sparrow and its diet consists mainly of invertebrates, including species from the size of aphids to those as large as an adult tree weta.

The birds nest on the ground or in small cracks and niches which make them extremely vulnerable to predators, particularly rats. 

DOC's deputy director general of operations Mike Slater said the support for the project from the wider community had been heartening to see.

Slater said the predator control system established in the 1,000 hectare block, meant the birds had every chance of surviving and thriving in their new environment.

"An aerial 1080 operation has reduced predator numbers to very low levels in the release site and a network of self resetting auto lure A24 traps will continue to keep rat numbers down," Slater said.

A further trip to Pureora Forest Park is planned this week to catch more robin.

In total, about 60 birds will call Mt Taranaki their new home.

 - Stuff

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