More Tieke return to Rotokare

40 saddlebacks freed in reserve

PETRA FINER
Last updated 05:00 02/06/2014
tieke
PETRA FINER/FAIRFAX NZ

CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF: Taranaki’s new resident tieke are released at Lake Rotokare on Saturday.

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An ecological wrong has been righted, 150 years after the tieke died out in Taranaki.

Forty more saddleback, or tieke, birds were released at Taranaki's pest-free Lake Rotokare reserve on Saturday after being caught at Bushy Park sanctuary, east of Whanganui, earlier in the week.

The release comes just weeks after a new founding population of tieke and popokatea (whitehead) were moved to Rotokare from Little Barrier Island, almost 400km away.

Both projects were led by conservationist Kevin Parker.

The small brown-and-black, wattled bird is notoriously vulnerable to predators and can survive only in pest-free environments.

Professor Bruce Clarkson, of the University of Waikato, said Rotokare's ecological structure had been destroyed when rats, stoats and other predators were introduced to the mainland during New Zealand's settlement by Europeans.

Clarkson is considered one of New Zealand's foremost authorities on ecological restoration.

He said the ecosystem would flourish best again when most of the species lost to the area were re-introduced.

"Yes, the birds are lovely and special but it's a bit bigger than that," he said.

"It's the inter-dependencies that will bring this back to a flourishing eco-system."

Some of the original plant and bird species that lived at Rotokare are extinct but Clarkson said conservationists would work to return as many species as possible.

Rotokare is a 230 hectare site governed by the Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust.

The trust spent two years building a predator-proof fence around the site.

Reserve trust chairman Mike Weren said it had been 10 years since the group set out to raise $30,000 to trap predators in the area. "We've probably raised about $6 million," he said. "And look at it now."

It is hoped that the new populations will thrive in their predator-free Taranaki home.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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