Trampers on the Milford Track will be able to walk among some of the world's rarest birds after the release of a species of endangered bird in the Arthur Valley.
Seventy-four endangered pateke, or brown teal, have been released as part of the newly established Great Walk conservation initiative between the Department of Conservation and Air New Zealand.
The release of the brown teal comes at the same time as a transfer of kiwi from Ulva Island to Stewart Island and the Rakiura Track.
DOC Te Anau area manager Reg Kemper said the pateke were the first vulnerable species to be returned to the Milford Track.
Next year, the department hopes to release takahe on to the popular Great Walk.
"This will be the first time in living memory takahe have been back in the Clinton Valley," he said.
"To be able to encounter one of the world's rarest birds in its natural environment will only underline the international reputation of the Milford Track."
Pateke were the rarest waterfowl on the New Zealand mainland and re-establishing a pateke population on the Milford Track was an important step to secure the species nationally, Mr Kemper said.
The pateke release is part of the wider Air New Zealand Great Walks Biodiversity Project - a $1 million dollar conservation initiative that aims to restore birdlife along DOC's Great Walks, including the Milford Track.
As well as releasing the rare birds, the project is supporting increased predator control along the Milford Track.
The density of stoat traps along the track has been doubled over the past few months and possum and rat control is being established in part of the Clinton Valley, Mr Kemper said.
"The more intensive predator control will protect vulnerable species, such as kiwi, that still exist in the area, and allow other threatened species, such as pateke and takahe to be returned to the area."
Pateke, or brown teal, were once widespread throughout New Zealand but are now rare and restricted to Great Barrier Island, coastal valleys of eastern Northland, and several other locations around New Zealand where new populations have been established using translocated birds.
There are currently estimated to be between 2000-2500 pateke living in a wild state in New Zealand, making it New Zealand's rarest waterfowl species on the mainland.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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