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THE CHATHAM ISLAND TAIKO TRUST

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Today

Tuku Nature Reserve and adjoining Covenants
Predator control
Taiko Trust Expeditions
Secure breeding site
Research


  Today fourteen breeding pairs of Taiko are now known to be established in the forests of the Tuku valley. Most of these pairs will attempt to breed each year.
  Without the continuing work to protect the Taiko from the introduced predators the chicks and adults chances of survival would be greatly reduced.  This page details the continuing work being carried out to protect this species.
A Taiko chick 5 weeks before fledging

 
    The on going work being undertaken by the New Zealand Government's, Department of Conservation and the Chatham Island Taiko Trust to secure the future for the Taiko can be divided into the following areas;

1)    Protecting the known breeding burrows by reducing the number of predators in the Tuku Nature Reserve and surrounding Covenants.

2)    Finding the locations of undiscovered breeding burrows with further telemetry expeditions and ground searches.

3)    The establishment of a secure breeding site with the construction of a predator proof fence at a location where Taiko were known to have bred early last century.

4)    Research on the Chatham Island Taiko.
 

 

  Tuku Nature Reserve and adjoining Covenants

    The majority of known breeding burrows are now located within the Tuku Nature Reserve (see map), an area of 1,238 hectares ( 2,900 acres ), donated by the landowners Manuel and Evelyn Tuanui in 1984.  A further 200 hectares of forested land adjacent to the reserve was covenanted by Bruce and Liz Tuanui in 1993.  In the near future another 1,100 hectares of land is to be covenanted by the neighbouring landowners; Ron Seymour, Robert Holmes and Neville Day to further protect the breeding grounds of the Chatham Island Taiko.  Such strong support by the local landowners is vital for the future of the Taiko.
 


 
 




The main Chatham Island showing the Tuku Nature Reserve.

   Like the majority of New Zealand the early settlers to the Chatham Islands brought with them an assortment of animals which upset the natural balance of the local wildlife. Some introductions were deliberate, such as the Possum and Weka, some like the rat arrived wherever humans went as uninvited hitchhikers.  The New Zealand Government's Department of Conservation now employs a full time manager to oversee the conservation efforts within the reserve and adjoining covenants, with a further 2 staff employed during the summer breeding season (September - May). The majority of the conservation work within the Reserve is directed at keeping the number of introduced predators down, to give the native birds the best opportunity to breed and expand their populations.  As well as the Chatham Island Taiko the Tuku Nature Reserve is home to several other endangered bird species only found in the Chatham Islands.  These include the endemic sub-species of :  parea (Chatham Pigeon), (Hemiphaga chathamensis), Chatham Island fantail,(Rhipidura penitus), Chatham Island warbler  (Gerygone albofrontata)and the kakariki (Red Crowned Parakeet) Cyanoramphus chathamensis.
 

     For more detailed information and photographs on the Tuku Nature Reserve click  Here
 

 

    Predator Control

    Reducing the number of predators during the Taiko's breeding season is the main focus of the work currently undertaken by DoC, (Department of Conservation).  This is done by 2 methods.  One is a trap line around the catchment of the Tuku river 14 kilometres in length with over 200 traps, checked every day over the summer months.  Feral cats, Possums and Weka are the predators targeted in this operation.  The other method is focused around each breeding burrow and targets the rats in the months when the Taiko chicks first hatch out, until they are large enough that rats are no longer a threat.  This consists of a grid surrounding each burrow with bait stations 30 metres apart  for 120 metres in each direction.  Rat poison is placed in each station and replaced on a regular basis to keep fresh.  This intensive protection has resulted in no Taiko chicks having been predated since increased management began in 1996.
 
Feral Cat  (Felis catus) 
Feral cats are wide spread throughout the forests on both Chatham Island and Pitt Island and are the descendants of the domestic cats brought over by the Europeans.  With their keen sense of smell and excellent night vision, Taiko adults and chicks have no chance if they are caught on the ground by these efficient predators.  Feral cats pose the greatest threat to over a dozen species endemic to the Chathams.  Over the breeding season around 100 feral cats are removed each year from the Tuku Reserve.

 

Brush tailed Possum  (Trichosurus vulpecula)
The Possum was introduced to the Chathams in 1911 (King 1990), from the east coast of Australia.  As with the rest of New Zealand, the idea was to establish a fur industry.  They may be associated with the decline of the Taiko, as possums are known to take eggs and chicks of birds (Brown et al.1993). 
   Other forest birds such as the parea, (Chatham Island Pigeon) Hemiphaga novaseelandiae chathamensis, have benefited greatly with the removal of large numbers of possums, with their population increasing from 42 parea ten years ago to over 200 today.

 
 
Ship Rat  (Rattus rattus)
Kiore  (Polynesian Rat)   (Rattus exulans)
Ship Rat  (Rattus rattus)
Norway Rat  (Rattus norvegicus)
Mouse  (Mus mus)
All 4 species of rodents found in New Zealand are present on the Chatham Island.  The kiore (Polynesian Rat) arrived with the Moriori, the first inhabitants of the islands, the other two species of rat and the mouse arrived with the Europeans.  Ship rats and kiore thrive in high numbers throughout the bush and are known to take both the chicks and eggs of other petrel species (Imber 1994). 

 
Weka  (Gallirallus australis hectori)
The Weka was introduced to Chatham Island from the South Island of New Zealand in 1905 (Oliver 1955).  The sub-species introduced, Buff Weka, G.a. hectori was endemic to the eastern South Island but disappeared from there by the 1930's, however today it thrives in large numbers on both  Chatham Island and Pitt Island.  Weka are known to catch and kill Pterodroma petrels and have been implicated in the destruction of the colony of Cook's Petrel (Pterodroma cookii) on Codfish Island (O'Brian 1990). There was also evidence that a weka was responsible for the disappearance of a Taiko chick from a breeding burrow during the 1995/96 breeding season.  Weka feathers having been found in the entrance of the burrow at the time the chick vanished.


Taiko Trust Expeditions

    Taiko Expeditions have been coming to the Chatham Islands since December 1969,  well before official recognition of the Taikos existence.  These small privately funded groups persisted on faith alone until 1974, when a dedicated group of 4 volunteers they saw what they believed were 2 Taiko flying in the lights of a spotlight after being attracted in.  In 1978 expedition members were finally rewarded when they managed to captured 2 birds using spotlights.  After the Taikos existence was proven the emphasis of the expeditions shifted to finding the breeding grounds somewhere in the remote rugged forests of the Tuku valley.  These were discovered in 1987 with the use of tiny radio transmitters which were attached to the tail feathers of birds captured at the light site, then following these signals inland to the breeding burrows.
    Today the Chatham Island Taiko Expedition has evolved into the Chatham Island Taiko Trust, who's work now include: research, publicity, sponsorship as well as expeditions every 2 years to find further breeding burrows.  The next telemetry expedition to the Chathams to radio track birds to new breeding areas is scheduled for September 2003.
 
 

The spotlight capture method
   A large spotlight directed skywards, is positioned on a spur overlooking the Tuku river on a flight path that Taiko use.  Two people on the ground hold handheld spotlights (turned off) and wait patiently for a Taiko to be attracted into the main spotlight.  Once a Taiko is in the light, the 2 handheld lights are turned on and they are used to guide the bird to the ground, where it can be captured.  The idea for this method of capturing the birds came from early whalers accounts of the birds flying into tripot fires, says David Crockett.

 
   In the last 31 years there have been 19 expeditions to the Chatham Islands involving a total of 163 volunteers.  All have made significant contributions to the rediscovery and continuing survival of this unique species.   To find out more about the Chatham Island Taiko Trust, and what you can do to help the Chatham Island Taiko click  HERE

Secure Breeding Site

    In a major new initiative to enhance the future for the Chatham Island Taiko, a secure breeding site has been established near the coast at a location where Taiko were still breeding in reasonable numbers 90 years ago.

  In a letter written by a local farmer H.G. Blyth, to David Crockett in June 1952, Mr Blyth described 2 Taiko breeding colonies that he remembers being on this farm in the previous 40 years.  With the removal of bush that followed with the encroachment of farming and the introduction of stock these colonies vanished around the 1930's.  The location of the secure breeding area at Sweetwater is because it is one of the old colony sites.  Remains of former Taiko burrows can still be found at this location.  Telemetric efforts and evaluation of historical data also suggest that the area between Point Gap and Otauwe Point was an aerial courtship site for the Taiko, Sweetwater is mid-way between these two locations.


    An area of  7.5 hectares at Sweetwater has been covenanted by the landowners, Bruce and Liz Tuanui.  This has been fenced off to exclude stock to allow the forest to recover.   Within the covenant the secure breeding site a three hectare area, enclosed by a predator-proof fence was opened March 2006.
 

The Sweetwater covenant site is ideally situated for a petrel colony high above the cliffs on the southern coast.  From here the young birds have an easy maiden flight out to the Southern Pacific Ocean.

   

   Now the fence is in place, loudspeakers have be positioned in the centre of the site and pre-recorded Taiko calls are being played to attract the young prospecting males to the ground.  It is hoped that once they land they will begin to dig burrows and eventually find a mate and within several years start to breed. 

For full details on the predator-proof fence and the secure breeding site initiatives visit the Secure Breeding Site page.


    Research

There are two main areas of research into Taiko at present

    1)    Trials into techniques to lure Taiko to new sites and research on techniques to translocate and hand rear chicks.
    2)    Research on Taiko biology, population dynamics and distribution.

    The first research area is focused on techniques which will be used to encourage Taiko to establish themselves within the secure breeding site.  The main method of encouraging the birds to use the secure breeding area is likely to be a loud speaker system with pre-recorded Taiko calls to attract them in.  This has been tried out on other types of petrels in New Zealand and overseas with good success.
    The second area of research involves trailing translocating chicks to a new site, prior to them fledging.  It it hoped that the young birds will imprint on the new location and return to the same place in eight or nine years to breed and establish a new colony site. Diving petrels (Pelecanoides urinatrix), Grey-Faced petrels (Pterodroma macroptera) and Pycroft's petrel (Pterodroma pycrofti), have had trials to develope techniques to transfer and hand rear chicks at new breeding sites.  These techniques have been very successful in establishing new seabird colonies around the New Zealand coast.

    The second area of research is focused on increasing what is known of the Taiko.  Taiko were only rediscovered in 1978 and the breeding grounds found in 1987.  This plus the fact that so few birds have ever been found, has resulted in very little accurate information being known.  Most of the early assumptions about Taiko were based on knowledge of related petrel species such as the Grey-Faced petrel (Pterodroma Macroptera). By increasing what is known about the Taiko, staff will be able to better protect and plan strategies more effectively, to assist the birds in increasing their population.  Research on DNA collected from birds is also being undertaken.  This will give a more accurate idea of the genetic diversity and family relationships.
Department of Conservation, seabird scientist Graeme Taylor, carefully examines a Taiko chick.

 

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