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Annual protection of native birds underway

Published: 23/08/2012 11:06 a.m. 

The 10th year of an operation to help protect two of New Zealand's rare and endemic birds begins in September in Ashburton District with the co-operation of landowners.

Environment Canterbury’s control operation targeting animal predators in two sections of the Ashburton River/Hakatere will help the populations of wrybill and black fronted tern.

Both birds are thought to number less than 5000 nationally with numbers continuing to decline due to disturbance, predation and loss of habitat.

Environment Canterbury’s Southern Biosecurity Team Leader, Brent Glentworth says while expectations of bird population recovery are high, operations are not a quick fix.

"It takes many years to allow breeding birds to boost numbers naturally and encourage other birds back into area where they have been largely absent. But bird survey results were encouraging."

Currently over 1800 possums, 242 feral cats 247 mustelids (ferrets/stoats/weasels) and 345 hedgehogs and multitudes of rats and mice have been removed from the control sites since 2003.

Mr Glentworth says the work beginning in September is critical to ensure there are fewer predators on the ground when the birds are nesting in late spring/early summer.

“Unfortunately we can’t eradicate these predators totally or fund sustained control, but by helping to protect these birds when they are most vulnerable we hope to make a difference.

“While the wrybill and tern are the target species, all birds, invertebrates and lizards in the Ashburton Riverbed will benefit from the control work,” says Mr Glentworth.

The contractor engaged by Environment Canterbury Excell Ltd, using local operator Mr Jock Quinn will focus on predator control within two sections of the river.

The lower Ashburton riverbed site of approximately 920 hectares runs downstream from the State Highway 1 Bridge to a point 9.5km down river. The upper site located at Hakatere on the south branch of the Ashburton River between Blowing Point and Maori Lakes contains around 760 hectares in area and covers around 7.5km of river bed.

This work contributes to the targets of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) which takes an ecosystem-based approach to protecting our native biodiversity. Protection of braided river ecology and natural character is a key target of the CWMS and in particular implementing actions that increase useable habitat for braided river birds and protecting the breeding populations from threats such as predators.

Signs will be placed at control locations advising the public of what is taking place, and people are reminded to keep dogs under control in these areas.

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